Issue 8 2/99

FolkWorld Live Review

Altan rocking around

in October '98 in Germany

By Michael Moll

In Germany, you often find old factories and industrial halls that are used these days as culture clubs and discos. The Getaway in Solingen is one of those; it's that kind of place that looks really dirty and shabby when it is lighted - but in the dark clubby lights it is one of the coolest places you can imagine. Surely, it is not the usual place to experience a renowned Irish trad band...

Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh; photo by The MollisIt was a stormy evening with heavy rain, when I arrived that November night at the Getaway. The doors had not yet opened so quite a big crowd gathered under the roof in front of the disco to wait to see one of Ireland's finest: Altan. The concert finally started around 9 p.m., with the Getaway being packed. "Please welcome on stage Virgin recording artists Altan" - and there they came to the mikes standing directly above the all-standing crowd. Altan started with a set of sparkling fast tunes, and the audience was directly taken away and honoured the band with sheers and huge applause. "Let's rock" - Ciaran Tourish gave the motto for this evening's gig. It was obvious that Altan were not too used to play in discos, playing in front of a big standing audience - but it seemed that they enjoyed the difference. For a bigger part of the audience it seemed also to be a difference to see Irish traditional music - the average age was lower than at ‚usual' folk music concerts of Germany, with many students in the audience. Shortly before, Altan had played in the Alte Oper (old opera) in Frankfurt - what a contrast: The one day one of the most prestigious classical venues in Germany with a stiffer atmosphere; the next day a cool disco in a former factory with a youth audience - it could not be more different. Though Altan seemed to be in the beginning a bit unsure how the concert would develop, they soon started to carry a relaxed and happy quality party atmosphere over the place.

Dermot Byrne & Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh; photo by The Mollis Altan seem to be at the moment again in top shape - the twin fiddling of Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh and Ciaran Tourish was tremendous. Dermot Byrne, the only sitting musician, looked first a bit confused to sit there playing his accordeon eye-in-eye with the standing audience. The string instrumentalists, Ciaran Curran and Dáithí Sproule, stood at both sides of the melody instrumentalists in a little distance to them - a very professional stage appearance focussing the attention on the other three musicians. Altan proved this evening once again that they are still Ireland's Number One Traditional Band, and that no recording deal to a major label can move them away from their very roots of music. It's been good to see Altan again on tour in Germany - they had not been here the last few years; and it's been even better that the audience floated in to see them; I have not seen a folk concert more crowded this year! Come back soon!!!

Photo Credit: All Photos by The Mollis

Infos about Altan at their homepage

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© The Mollis - Editors of FolkWorld; Published 2/99

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