Sunday Independent (Ireland), March 14, 1976
There must be a special joy in exiting an audience in Carnegie Hall to stand in frenzied ovation for several minutes and then to join with full voice in the singing of "A Nation Once Again". And that is just what the Wolfe Tones on Thursday night last at the end of a very successful top-of-the-bill appearance in the world's most renowned concert hall. The 3,000 or so Irish Americans that attended were vicariously immersed in the passion of Irish patriotism to their ectasy and hysteria. The Wolfe Tones have the roar, the thunder and the simplicity our American cousins require, in contrast to the quieter cadences that battle weary natives at least sometimes want to hear.
Star Drum Major
Carnegie Hall is of course a big place. The ceiling is massively high, and the bulk of the seating is on the Parterre level with slim balconies clinging onto the back wall. The accoustics are crystal clear, but otherwise, the place is a bit of a disappointment. The show got under way by the New York Police Department Emerald Pipe Band. They marched on from backstage with their kilts, their pipes and their drums, led by a drum major with the most gingery step I've ever seen. This gentleman was by far the star of the opening performance, especially his jittery little two-step when he was about either to come to a halt or to salute somone or something - for all the world as though he had water on his knee.
Then came Paddy Reilly, the ballad singer, and he was dwarfed on the huge stage, but he was marvellous up there far away on his own. He sang with great power and feeling and was also very funny. He sang Brendan Behan's "The Old Triangle" better than I've ever heard it sung. It was a hard act to follow and the Wolfe Tones began nervously. But they quickly captured the mood with a rendering of "The Boys Of The Old Brigade", and they were in full swing thereafter. Their own songs "Rockall", "Were On The One Road", and "The Men Behind The Wire" were received with rapturous enthusiasm. Throughout the performance they exhibited a professionalism and talent which is sometimes belied by some of that roar and thunder.
For the 'Tones', it was the highlight of their careers to date, and it was impossible not to share their exuberance and elation after the show. America has been especially rich gravy for the Tones. This trip is their 21st since 1966 and the demand for their kind of music has grown as nore and more Irish Americans have "discovered" their "ethnicticity" with the revival of the ethnic cultures in the U.S. Society during the last few years and, of course, with emotional events in Nothern Ireland.
They are a little sensitive to critisisms about their "exploitation" of the Northern Ireland violence but Derek Warfield has a ready answer. He says "What we are doing is merely reflecting the feelings of the nationalist people in the North. We are closely identified with their struggle and it is only natural that we reflect their emotions and feelings in our songs". He does'nt agree that their songs might be an encouragement to violence on the theory that culture is merely reflective, not conditioning. He says that prior to the troubles they played a lot in the North to Loyalist audiences and includes several Loyalist songs in their repetoire. He regrets that nowadays it is not possible to play in Loyalist areas.
The trip to America has already taken them to a few towns in upstate New York and New Jersey. They are off to Boston and Rhode Island and then they go West to San Fransisco and Los Angeles where, incidentally, they will play at an Irish Northern Aid Concert. The Wolfe Tones are a singularly happy and cohesive group and whatever one thinks of their songs one has to admire their talent.
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