Above: Brent Hoad (left) and Steve Phillips of the Elders get their Hoolie on Saturday at the Midland. Photos by Sue Pfannmuller/Special to The Star
Saturday night, the Elders took over the Midland at AMC and they proclaimed they had some good news and reasons to party. They were celebrating the release of their new album, "Gael Day"; keyboardist Joe Miquelon was commemorating his third anniversary with the band; and lead singer Ian Byrne, a native of County Wicklow, Ireland, is preparing to become a U.S. citizen.
It's not like they needed any help. Saturday was also the band's seventh annual Hoolie, its pre-St. Patty's Day throwdown, and as usual, a big crowd showed up to party and dance. All that good news was more gravy.
The show lasted nearly two-hours and comprised nearly 20 songs, many of them off the new record. The crowd of about 1,100 treated most of those like the standards and favorites the band has been playing for as long as decade.
Above: Colin Farrell, one-half of the Irish-folk duo Creel, got the crowd ready for the Edlers.
They brought some accomplices: the O'Riada Academy of Irish Dance; the St. Andrews Pipes & Drums; Colin Farrell and Damien McCarthy, otherwise known as Creel, the Irish folk-duo and house band at Raglan Road; and champion Irish step-dancer and Raglan Road regular Danielle Fitzpatrick. All three warmed up the big crowd for an hour or so before the main event; Fitzpatrick and then the pipes and drums joined the Elders during their set.
Above: The Elders' front man Ian Byrne gives his drum a sound lashing.
This was the first Hoolie in the refurbished Midland, and though the surroundings were dazzling, the vastness of the place affected the vibe. Fans in the mezzanine and upper balcony were so remote, it was hard to feel their enthusiasm.
The floor in front of the stage was a different story, especially during the usual barn-burners like "Packy Go Home" and "1849." The place went nuttiest during "Moore St. Girls," which is to the Elders what "Rosalita" is to Springsteen or "Livin' On A Prayer" is to Bon Jovi. You could feel everyone on that one, even the partiers in the balcony. (It included a choreographed boys-v.girls chant of "Doing' an Irish dance, hey!' that was recorded for a promotion.) The other bright highlight: the manic instrumental that followed "The Ghost of Ontario," especially Brent Hoad's brilliant work on the fiddle.
They ended with a very Springsteen-like anthem of hope, "Gonna Take a Miracle." No one explicitly mentioned these times we're living in; there's no moping at a Hoolie. But the message of the song was explicit and worth hearing: "The show must go on / I'll face it with a grin / I'm never giving in ... The show must go on." In other words: Let there be optimism. More good news is on the way.
| Timothy Finn, The Star
Setlist: Better Days Ahead, Racing the Tide, Saint Brendan Had a Boat, Buzz's Jig, Story of a Fish, Declaration Day, Red-Headed Man, Luck of the Irish, The Ghost of Ontario, reel, Men of Erin, Send a Prayer, Moore St. Girls, Packy Go Home, Devil's Tongue, Only Good News, 1849, Gonna Take a Miracle.