boston.com News your connection to The Boston Globe
MUSIC REVIEW

Celtic Woman's journey offers a little Vegas with their Dublin

You could focus on the pretty voices, pretty smiles, and pretty sentiments.

Or you could think: "Scarborough Fair" on the harp? Seriously?

Las Vegas came to mind more than Dublin on Friday night when the sprightly colleens of Celtic Woman blessed the Wang Theatre with the first of two weekend shows. (Three more are scheduled in June.)

Certainly Chloe Agnew, Orla Fallon, Meav Ni Mhaolchatha, and Lisa Kelly can sing, and Mairead Nesbitt can play that fiddle. These lovely lasses were a big hit with the crowd, an older but enthusiastic bunch who seemed to recognize every song from the first notes.

Fans hoping for a faithful reproduction of the Celtic Woman PBS special, DVD, and CDs got what they wanted, and they loved every minute of it. In that light, "Celtic Woman: A New Journey" is critic-proof.

From the traditional ("Danny Boy") to the new age (Enya's "Orinoco Flow" ) to the heart-tugging ("You Raise Me Up"), the foursome hit all the notes and smiled or looked sad at the designated moments. Nesbitt, a dead ringer for Kelly Ripa, ran around grinning and fiddling and offering random high kicks in tribute to the show's spiritual ancestor, "Riverdance."

"Isn't she something!" the older gentleman behind me kept saying. And yes, she was.

However, if you paid $75 for an orchestra seat expecting to be moved by a fresh take on Irish musical tradition or to hear a single moment of genuine, unrehearsed artistic interpretation, you went away disappointed.

Actually, there was one such moment: an acoustic guitar solo by one of the six backing musicians brought spontaneous applause that threw off the show's timing for an instant, the only such occurrence in the two-hour performance.

The show is sometimes criticized for its new age bent, but that was hard to discern except in drivelous lyrics such as, "We all travel the same road/ carry the same load/ reap what we have sowed."

Some might see new age in the rippling stage fog, the tinkling chimes, the abstract backdrops. But the dominant tone is really Vegas, from the two giant Emerson, Lake & Palmer -grade drum kits to the Up With People-style backup singers to the strafing spotlights. Not a lighting cue was missed.

In conclusion, five little words: Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme.

SEARCH THE ARCHIVES