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Clannad: Birmingham

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by Tony Collins (subscribe)
I am a freelance writer specialising mainly in health and education and living in Staffordshire. Find me on Linked In
Award-winning folk legends bow out after 50 years
It has been quite some journey but, as the end of the road finally comes into view, what a farewell show that Irish folk legends Clannad put on at Birmingham's Symphony Hall. Clannad are currently embarking on their final tour after an incredible 50 years making and performing music around the world. Their 'In a Lifetime' farewell tour, named after the song that twice gave them top 20 hits in the late 80s, comes after an amazing career that resulted in incredible global record sales of 15 million, together with eight Top 10 UK albums. With siblings Maire, Paul and Ciaran Brennan still very much to the fore as they were when they first started out way back in 1970, Clannad produced an outstanding two-and-a-half hour show at Symphony Hall on March 11.

Clannad bid farewell at the end of their 50 year career

The start of the concert, performed by a seven-strong line-up which also included the siblings' surviving uncle Noel, was almost a lesson in Irish music with a succession of songs from their early career, all sung in Gaelic and steeped in local folklore. Maire set the scene in style with an unaccompanied rendition of Maighdean Mhara (The Mermaid), a local song from Donegal, which featured on their first album. Other Gaelic language tunes followed, including Crann Ull (The Apple Tree) from the beginning of the last century, and a medley of instrumentals featuring Maire's exquisite harp playing. The first half also included Thios Fan Chosta, one of the first songs that Clannad wrote themselves, which dealt with the issue of looking after our coastlines in an early nod to climate change awareness. In between, Clannad performed Two Sisters and New Grange, about the ancient henge in Ireland, before reaching the interval with a medley of five tunes specially written for the 1984 television series, Robin of Sherwood, including the popular single Robin (The Hooded Man).

The Irish folk legends bowed out in style in Birmingham

After the break, Clannad, who have just released a huge anthology deluxe set to mark their farewell, continued in the same vein as before. They opened the second half with another Gaelic language song, Caislean Oir (golden castle) from their 1985 album Macalla, before launching into the previously mentioned In a Lifetime which featured U2's Bono on the original 1986 record. The warm, friendly atmosphere and superb musicianship continued throughout the rest of the concert, with further songs including A Celtic Dream, one of two new tracks written specially for the anthology album, and lively drinking song Nil Se'n La, which the band used to play during their early days performing in German clubs in the 70s. Other crowd favourites included the haunting I Will Find You, from the 1992 hit move Last of the Mohicans, and the inevitable and no less enjoyable Theme From Harry's Game, which gave the band a huge hit a decade earlier.

The group sold 15 million records worldwide

Rating: 5 out of 5

Further UK dates:

Mar 14 Bridgewater Hall, Manchester
Mar 16 Bournemouth Pavilion
Mar 17 London Palladium
Mar 19 The New Theatre, Oxford
Mar 20 The Forum, Bath
Mar 22 St David's Hall, Cardiff
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Why? Help Irish folk group to say farewell to their fans
When: March 11
Phone: 0121 780 3333
Where: Symphony Hall, 8 Centenary Square, Broad Street, Birmingham B1 2EA
Cost: Tickets from 33
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