Grand Opera House, October 12
I last saw Clannad at the Barbican in 1992 when they first played York and although their performance was nigh on faultless, there was a sterility to the building that did not lend itself to their music.
Their concert at the Grand Opera House last night felt more personal and charismatic – more in keeping with Clannad’s unique style.
Although this musical family’s oeuvre is imbued with the Celtic mythology and landscape of their family upbringing in the pulchritudinous County Donegal, their stylistic footprints can be seen wandering through many genres.
The set reflected this nicely with an eclectic mix of traditional folksongs and pop songs played not only on traditional instruments such as the harp, flute, mandolin and whistle but utilising synthetic synth washes and samplers to great effect without sounding incongruous.
One thing that binds all of these styles together is the harmonies. Glorious, soaring, lush, close five-part harmonies that captivate, regardless of the genre of the song.
Piercing through these harmonies like a shaft of sunlight on a misty Irish morning is the voice of Moya Brennan. A voice so beautifully idiosyncratic that it’s almost ethereal.
They didn’t disappoint a healthy crowd on a cold night either. The opening boded well with the undulating hypnotic theme song to the film Last Of The Mohicans – I Will Find You.
It was obvious from this assured start that they had lost none of their power or vocal dexterity.
We always yearn for artists that time has not wearied and sometimes were are saddened as with Ian Anderson’s (Jethro Tull) voice and sometimes we are spectacularly surprised like I was with Kate Bush a couple of weeks ago.
Clannad were the same, which ensured that the classics remained undimmed classics that you could take away with a warm glow knowing you’d seen and heard the real deal.
They were in York to promote their first studio album for 15 years, Nádúr. There were some nice new tunes, most notably Vallum, which is a great representation of the Clannad style, and the wistful Transatlantic.
The tracks that took home the gongs though were what you would expect. Theme from Harry’s Game was simply breathtaking in its simple purity and I spied a few leaking eyes.
The Robin Of Sherwood medley was skilfully fused together and of course their big international hit In A Lifetime, which encompasses several of their shape shifting styles within a single song in just under four minutes!
Fittingly, the evening ended with the catchy jig Teidhir Abhaile Riú (Go Home with You) complete with audience participation and ensuing feelgood factor.
The band, friendly and engaging throughout, stayed behind after to sign autographs and memorabilia and judging by the long queue of smiling faces may not have made it out of the building for some time.