LIVE: The High Kings @ The Egg, 3/13/11
With St. Patrick’s Day in our midst, all of the major music clubs and concert halls around Nippertown were hosting some kind of Irish music event. Some of them were traditional – Runa at Caffe Lena; the Chieftains at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall; or Munnelly at the Eighth Step in Proctors – and some of them were planted firmly in the contemporary rock realm – Flogging Molly at Northern Lights.
The Egg’s schedule was no exception to the unofficial Irish-holiday rule, playing host to the High Kings last Sunday night. What was kind of the exception to that rule was the High Kings themselves.
They weren’t a traditional band, and they really weren’t a rock band. They didn’t sound like anybody else on the scene today. Think Bono and his U2 bandmates unplugged but still pumped up to rock the roof off the house with high-energy music played on acoustic instruments instead of monstrous, cranked-up electric guitars and drums. A young fan’s t-shirt said it all – “Folk N’ Rock.”
And that’s why The Egg’s smaller Swyer Theatre was practically filled to capacity with fans of all ages. Everybody can relate to the High Kings, regardless of their musical bent. They launched the evening with the rousing “Step It Out Mary” – the lead-off track of their brand new sophomore album, “Memory Lane” – and right from the get-go accordionist-mandolinist Darren Holden, guitarist Finbarr Clancy, guitarist-percussionist Brian Dunphy and bouzouki-recorder-pennywhistle player Martin Furey had everyone in the house clapping to the beat and stomping their feet.
Nearly every member of the High Kings pulled double duty, playing at least two instruments. But while the music was delivered flawlessly and note-perfect, it was their infectious, multi-part vocal harmonies that caught everyone’s ear. It’s no wonder that these four lads with an Irish musical royalty pedigree are already international box-office attractions. After all, they’ve won the title of “Ireland’s Folk Band of the Year” three times running, and they’ve got their own PBS-TV special.
Singing over a wide variety of tempos, the High Kings performed an impassioned, kaleidoscopic repertoire – from ballads to traditional ditties to rocking tunes. To the die-hard fans, the only things missing in the mix were the bagpipes and the fiddle. To everybody else, it was like having a pint of Guinness with old friends in an Irish pub on St. Patrick’s Day. And it doesn’t get better than that!
Review and photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk
Excerpt from David Singer’s review at The Daily Gazette: “The night was filled with genuinely beautiful ballads and harmonies. But the High Kings, named after Ireland’s ancient rulers, can also feel like a grown-up pop ‘boy band,’ sent here to deliver an Americanized Irish show. Despite some of that, there were plenty of broken-hearted tales and upbeat jigs about drinking, losing sweethearts and mourning for Dublin. The foursome played a number of instruments that included guitar, banjo, recorder, accordion, keyboard and percussion. Despite all those instruments, the show lacked the dynamics of any instrumental solos, dominated by vocals at every point of every song.”