Clannad are concluding their first tour in 18 years, and I consider myself extremely fortunate to have caught their show at the Bergen Performing Arts Center in Englewood.
A band insider confessed that the tour has had some highs and lows, with the band selling out many gigs along with half-empty halls along the way.
“When you’ve been away this long, I think you have to build the brand back and remind people why they loved you in the first place,” he reasoned.
If that was the mission for the night they accomplished it in Englewood with an enchanting, mystical set stepped in the band’s deep catalog. The music is anchored in most cases by Moya Brennan’s rich harp, which anchors the arrangement in traditional Irish music, most notably on the gorgeous “Eleanor Plunkett” instrumental.
Yet the band touches on folk, rock, ambient, jazz and world music. It’s an unclassifiable sound that is decidedly Irish all the same.
The harmonies Moya makes with Pol and Ciaran Brennan, along with their uncles Padraig and Noel Duggan, are so cohesive that they could only be produced by people in the same harmony.
Their performance of the Gaelic “Mhorag Na Horo Gheallaidh” and “Dulaman” were spine-tingling. I’m getting chills just typing these song titles as I think back at those unforgettable moments!
There was a distinct family connection in their playing as well, with each musician flourishing onstage during the suite of instrumentals from their Robin of Sherwood soundtrack.
My companion for the evening likened hearing Moya’s voice to being in a state of grace. Her vocals were indeed heavenly during rapturous reads of “Theme From Harry’s Game” and “Down by the Sally Garden” that was the show’s lone encore.
She is also one of the nicest artists I have encountered in my years on this Irish music beat, and she made the small but rabid crowd feel welcome with stories about the songs in between breaks in the music.
I observed a fan at the post-show “meet and greet” session who begged Moya not to make it so long between visits next time. Moya smiled and promised her a new album and tour in 2013.
“I think the nice thing about it is that it isn’t a dated sound -- it’s timeless,” said Brennan when asked to describe the sound of the new album during our phone interview a few weeks back.
“‘Am I Brave Enough’ and ‘Hand in Hand’ are some of the new songs I just love. There’s a lot of body in it and there doesn’t seem like any filler exists in these songs.
“Ciaran, Pol, and myself are the core harmonies in the group and that magic is back together like we never left it. Full blooded Clannad sound. The Gaelic stuff, the harp, and all the flavors we brought to the table are there.”
Clannad is back and all is right with the world! For more information on the band, log onto www.clannad.ie