LIVE: The McKrells @ the Madison Theater, 3/14/15
Review by Greg Haymes
Here in Nippertown, there’s a longstanding tradition – it’s just not a St. Patrick’s Day celebration without some music from Kevin McKrell. It all started back in the early ’80s when the Grinch had an Irish pub empire that stretched from Albany to Schenectady to Saratoga Springs, and McKrell and his Donnybrook Fair bandmates were the guys to see if you wanted in on a good, raucous, Guinness-soaked party brimming over with lots of laughs and great Celtic music.
Flash forward some 30-odd-years, and McKrell is not only still at it, but he sounds better than ever with his band the McKrells. Really.
Surrounded by his daughter Kate McKrell (vocals, bodhran) and bandmates Seth Warden (guitar) and Chris Leske (banjo), McKrell was perched on a barstool at centerstage at Albany’s Madison Theater, strumming on his guitar as they launched into their post-parade matinee concert with “I Wish I Had a Boat,” the rousing title track of McKrell’s brand new album.
And they were off…
For two hours, the fab foursome spun from one end of the musical spectrum to the other, churning through the band’s trademark Celtic bluegrass (“Darlin’ Boy” and Leske’s fiery instrumental breakdown “Rat On the Harp”), sea-faring ballads (“”Bound for Boston”), homesick country twang (“It’s Not Me”) and a percolating Celtic samba (“Travelin’ Man”).
And you can’t serve up a parade day show without a little audience participation, and the band pared down to just the father-and-daughter duo to dutifully offer up hard-charging renditions of the fist-pumping “All the Dogs of Pompeii” and “Black Velvet Band.” They turned down the tempo, too, with a heartbreaking take on “Danny Boy” and McKrell’s riveting solo rendition of “Green Fields of France.”
Laughs? Oh yeah… McKrell reeled off a couple of elaborately set-up bad jokes and some harrowingly hilarious road stories, while Kate spiced things up with her own witty repartee, prompting her dad to remark, “When did this turn into ‘The Sonny & Cher Show’?”
And before heading back out into the wet, gray day, the McKrells left us with one last blast of Irish optimism – “All of the hard days are gone / It’s all beer and whiskey and songs from now on / Laugh at the darkness, dance until dawn / All of the hard days are gone.”
P.S.: Kudos to the Madison for taking care of the thirsty McKrells’ fans. Guinness was available at the snack bar for just $4 a pint.
THE McKRELLS SET LIST
I Wish I Had a Boat
Lost in Your Eyes
I Don’t Remember
Bound for Boston
John Barleycorn Must Die
It’s Not Me
Black Velvet Band
All the Dogs of Pompeii
I Miss the Rain
The One About Canada
Green Fields of France
Rat Upon the Harp
Home in Donegal
All of the Hard Days Are Gone