Blues fans, this one might not be for you. Even my Americana fans might not be overly enthusiastic, but for those of you who love all forms of music will certainly enjoy my look at the great Celtic Band, Gaelic Storm. I’ve been a fan of Celtic Music most of my life, growing up on a steady diet of bagpipes, penny whistles, bodhráns, accordions, fiddles, and the occasional ceilidh.
Gaelic Storm has been one of the most visible Celtic groups over much of their 20-year journey, perhaps being most famous to the general public for their appearance in the 1997 blockbuster film, Titanic. While they have gone through a number of incarnations with different players, the current line-up features two founding members, Patrick Murphy on vocals, accordion, and harmonica and Steve Twigger on guitar and vocals. The other members of the quintet include Peter Purvis on bagpipes, Uillean pipes, and pennywhistle; Ryan Lacey on drums and percussion; and Katie Grennen on fiddle and vocals.
For their performance at Richmond’s Tin Pan, the overflowing audience showed off a lot of green jumpers and the occasional rugby shirt. Shamrocks and Irish harps adorned more than one shirt, and the venue, which normally doesn’t stock Guiness, brought in a large amount for the show and sold all of it within a half hour of opening.
You could say that everybody was ready for a night of raucous partying with these wild eyed Celts.
Funny story about the show, seems that the band was in Delaware the night before and while driving down 95 towards Richmond, their van shot a piston through their engine, catching it on fire and crippling their travel plans. Murphy told a hilarious story about their travails and how they made it to the venue only a few minutes before show time.
Oh yeah, Murphy had a lot of stories that night, most of which were hysterical even in the face of adversity. We’re a story telling culture and Murphy is one of the best.
Opening up with a great story song, Piña Colada In A Pint Glass, the audience really got into the performance right away. By the time they finished that song, there were already people calling for Johnny Tarr, which caused Murphy to laugh and remind folks that Johnny Tarr was their version of Freebird, and they were tired of playing it…
Of course, he said that with a smile and a sip from a pint. Next up, they went back to their first album for Johnny Jump Up, and another story. If anyone was expecting a quick concert, they were quickly dissuaded. The stories came pretty much after every song as Murphy is a master at entertaining an audience with every weapon in his arsenal.
After that came a bagpipe and fiddle duel between Purvis and Grennen in an instrumental that the band calls Samurai Set, perhaps because of the kicking that Purvis and Grennen unleashed on each other whilst playing. This lead into our first history lesson about Jimmy Kelly and his part in keeping sailors in servitude in a song from their most recent album, Go Climb A Tree. The song, Shanghai Kelly, is very cool, and it was fun to hear it performed live.
Twigger took over the vocals for the next song, Slim Jim, and he proved that he could carry the lead as well, and Murphy took a well-deserved break. Murphy then launched into a great story of meeting Russell Crowe while he was filming LA Confidential, and getting into a fight when the volatile actor refused to put out a cigarette in the bar where Murphy was bartending. This was the lead in to the song The Night I Punched Russell Crowe In The Head.
From there the band segued into another instrumental that they call Floating The Flanbeury. The audience got a new history lesson as a lead in to the song The Green White And Orange And The Red White And Blue, reflecting the joint patriotism between the Irish and the Americans. Beautiful number.
After teasing the audience a couple of time about how they weren’t going to play Johnny Tarr, they exploded into the song and the audience went wild. I love this song, and it’s been on my playlist for several years, longer than most of the material on it. They followed up with another high energy song, Beggerman, complete with three lovely Irish dancers who did some fancy stepping to accompany the number.
After the audience calmed down a bit, thanks to Murphy’s fantastic story of a man bringing escargot home to his shrewish wife, the band played The One, and then moved to another song from the most recent album, Monday Morning Girl which featured Twigger on vocals.
Then, for a piece of comedy, the band gave percussionist Ryan Lacey an opportunity to offer his words of wisdom.
Next up was their version of Whiskey-O Johnny-O before going into one more instrumental. They closed out the set with a rousing version of Rumpus. After the audience cheered, whistled, stomped, applauded, and generally showed their appreciation of the band, they came back for a two-song encore starting with Me And The Moon with harmonies so tight that my wife referred to them as the Gaelic Beach Boys. They closed the show with Tell Me Ma and audience got crazy for several minutes.
I knew that it was going to be a wild night as I drove to the venue and saw many out of state cars. If anyone travels that far for a band, you know that they are primed for a good time. After a hot night of hard driving Celtic Music, I am definitely ready for more, and it doesn’t have to be on Burns Night or St. Patrick’s Day, let’s get together, listen to music, tell some stories, and raise a pint to each other’s health!
(All photos used for this article are by Jeff Scott, the official photographer of Professor Johnny P's Juke Joint. Used by permission. Copies from this show and many others are available at JeffScottShots.com and you shoud check them out ~ he's damn good!)