The adorable young Claddagh Irish Dancers very nearly stole the show from a veteran lineup of Celtic music stars Sunday at the Hollywood Bowl. Despite the youth of many in the colorfully garbed company, their performance endowed the music with an engaging and much-needed visual component.
Their appearance was in sharp contrast to that of the headliners, Altan, Danu and Eileen Ivers. Granted the power of the music, their overall impact wasn't enhanced by outfits--jeans in many cases, black attire in others--that made them virtually indistinguishable from the Bowl's upper seats.
That said, the music for Celtic Journeys II can best be described as appealing rather than mesmerizing. Danu opened with a set of traditional material enlivened by their youthful enthusiasm (the members of the band are all under the age of 30).
But it was violinist Ivers, best known for her scintillating efforts in "Riverdance," who generated the highest voltage in a set blending Celtic elements with a far-reaching array of global sounds. Interspersing her virtuosic playing with commentary tinged with a distinct Bronx accent (she is New York-born from Irish parentage), her program was both melodically entertaining and musically illuminating.
The headline act, Altan, capable of launching irresistible rhythmic drive, sounded more low-keyed than usual. Violinists Mairead Ni Mhaonaigh and Ciaran intermittently produced the let-it-all-hang-out propulsion so characteristic of the group's efforts--but only erratically, with too many tepid moments. And the presence of veterans Donal Lunny and Paul Brady provided far less appeal than anticipated.