The first thing I noticed at the Monday (Feb. 26) Altan concert at the Orange Peel was no one frisked me at the door. Not that the Orange Peel is known for overzealous search tactics, but I have been tapped for carrying in a camera or an oversized purse.
Once I got inside, I could see why: Chairs. A seated show can only mean one thing — old people. The over-50s are not only free from suspicion of smuggling in contraband, they get to sit while enjoying their music. They get cute little tables on which to rest their drinks, and tasteful sound engineering that leaves their hearing intact at the end of the evening. I know, I know … it’s not rock ‘n roll, but I like it.
But traditional Irish quintet Altan really shouldn’t be relegated to the echalons of those too decrepit to boogie. Because—despite a lack of kit drums (or even a bodhran), Altan cooks. Front woman Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh, a native Irish speaker, is a master Donegal fiddler—as is Ciarán Tourish who shares not only fiddling duties but keeps the show lively with his sharp wit. Actually, whether or not you’re up on the ins and out of trad music, Altan provides an entertaining show, keeping up a banter between the musicians and the audience and moving deftly between lyrical ballads and fiery reels.
The show was opened by rosy-cheeked fiddling prodigy Jack Devereux (so young he had a black X marked on his hand lest he attempt to sidle up to the bar) and Irish bouzouki player Vince Fogerty. The talent of that duo proves (if nothing else) that trad music isn’t just for seniors. Though, watching a show from the comfort of a chair is such a nice switch from being jostled by hordes of drunken college kids that I’m not sure I want the word to get out.
—Alli Marshall, A&E reporter