The Chieftains to light up Irish eyes at the FAC

By Kate MacDonald

Courtesy myspace.com/thechieftains

Legendary Irish band The Chieftains, headed by Paddy Moloney, are coming to the Fine Arts Center Concert Hall this evening. They will be performing songs from their newest album, “San Patricio,” released just yesterday, as well as old, traditional favorites.

The Chieftains were founded in 1962 by Paddy Moloney, as an Irish traditional group. Over the years, however, they have not limited themselves to purely Irish instrumentals. They’ve collaborated with many popular artists, such as Van Morrison, Mick Jagger, The Corrs and Ziggy Marley, to name a few. Their musical styles have drifted from traditional to rock and roll, even over to the country genre.

They began their current tour for “San Patricio” on Feb. 17 in Calif. and will wrap things up on St. Patrick’s Day in New York City, not long after their three Mass. shows. Their tour will include Nashville bluegrass fiddlers, a Scottish singer and a harpist, showcasing their different musical talents.

Since their inception, The Chieftains have been nominated for 18 Grammys, winning six, as well as an Emmy. Though they have received the most acclaim in their native Ireland, the group saw American success twice, once in 1995 with “Have I Told You Lately,” performed with Van Morrison, and again when their collaboration with The Corrs, “I Know My Love,” in 2002.

“San Patricio,” recorded with Ry Cooder is their newest album, their first since 2006’s “The Essential Chieftains.” According to the FAC press release, it’s a blend of Irish and Mexican music, a tribute to the San Patricio Battalion, which was made up of Irish-Americans and famine immigrants who fought on the Mexican side of the Mexican-American War due to reported mistreatment by the U.S. army and the orders to shoot fellow (Mexican) Catholics. San Patricio is Spanish for “Saint Patrick.”

According to the official web site of The Chieftains, “San Patricio” was recently named one of the most “eagerly awaited new albums of 2010.” Steve Morse, of The Boston Globe, hailed it as, “a vital reminder of a history long forgotten.”

The album also features collaborations with Linda Ronstadt and actor Liam Neeson.

“It’ll be a big show,” Moloney told The Columbus Dispatch of this tour. At the ends of the concerts, he said, the group plans on inviting the audience to come to the stage and dance. They like to incorporate the viewers into their shows, getting the audience involved.

The concert is sure to be great for anyone interested in connecting with their Irish roots. Since the 1980s, The Chieftains have featured traditional Irish step dancers in various parts of their set.

Additionally, the group is comprised of four Irishmen, all of whom play various Celtic instruments, including the bodhran, an Irish drum (played by Kevin Coneff), the uilleann pipes and easily identifiable tin whistle (both featured by Paddy Moloney himself), and the fiddle and flute (played by Sean Keane and Matt Molloy, respectively). Together for years, they’ve been noted to have great chemistry and rhythm onstage, really captivating their audience.

In Mass., a state with such great and numerous ties to Ireland, Paddy Moloney is just the thing we need to get the audience in the mood for next week’s St. Patrick’s Day festivities!

Kate MacDonald can be reached at [email protected]