On Stage: After more than 50 years, Clannad is saying goodbye

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By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times


It’s been 53 years since Clannad formed in County Donegal in Ireland. It’s been 50 years since the masters of traditional Irish music first performed in America.

Over that time, the band has released more than 20 albums and built up a strong large legion of devoted fans.

“Mat the road rise to meet you” is an Irish blessing that has been passed down through generations. It is a traditional way of wishing someone good luck and fortune on their journey through life.

For Clannad, the road is not rising – it is ending.

Clannad is coming down the home stretch of its farewell tour – a tour that will visit the Keswick Theater (291 N. Keswick Avenue, Glenside, 215-572-7650, www.keswicktheatre.com) on September 14.

The band’s original line-up featured siblings Ciarán, Pól, and Moya Brennan and their twin uncles Noel and Pádraig Duggan. Four of the originals remain. Noel Duggan died on 15 October 2022 at age 73.

In February 2020, BMG announced the release of “In a Lifetime,” a greatest hits set to commemorate the band’s 50th anniversary. Released on April 3 by BMG, the album was available on CD, vinyl, digital platforms, and a deluxe edition that contains over 100 tracks spanning their career.

The set includes two new tracks, “A Celtic Dream” and “Who Knows (Where the Time Goes),” their first recorded since Padraig Duggan’s passing. The album coincided with the “In a Lifetime Tour,” their final as a group, which was to take place in the UK and North America between March and October 2020

However, the tour was postponed after several shows due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The tour resumed in 2021, before Noel Duggan died on 15 October 2022 at age 73.

The tour was supposed to cross America in summer 2022 – including a date in the Delaware Valley. Unfortunately, plans were scrapped because of things beyond the band’s control.

“The farewell tour never stopped,” said Pól Brennan (Pól Ó Braonáin in Gaelic), during a phone interview from his Philadelphia hotel room Wednesday afternoon.

“We started in pre-Covid in Belfast in February 2020 and then the pandemic hit. We had to cancel the Palladium and then were off the road for a year-and-a-half because of the pandemic.

“When we had to cancel the North American segment of the tour last summer, it was a monetary thing. It was financially impossible for us to tour the states at that time, so we agreed to cancel.

“I was devastated. Fortunately, our agent is great. He was able to reschedule the shows for this year. We always knew we’d come back.

“This tour is actually better. We’ve been rocking out to standing ovations every night.

“We toured Australia earlier this year and now we’re in the states. We’ve added a couple of cities and we’re playing bigger venues in New York and L.A. The show in Seattle on October 9 will be our last show – the final farewell.”

Unlike some music acts like The Who, Kiss and Elton John (who in 1977 said — I’ve made a decision tonight that this is going to be the last show. There’s a lot more to me than playing on the road and this is the last one I’m going to do – and then was touring again 1977 with a series of farewell tours that continue today), this is really the swan song for Clannad.

After the tour finale in the Pacific Northwest a month from now, Clannad will disband, and the individual members will continue with solo projects.

One of the projects Pól Brennan recently completed was the album, “The Irish Revolution.”

Composed in his County Kilkenny studio, Pól Brennan is joined by Steve Turner, Aiden O’Donnell and Nick Bailey, as well as his sister and fellow Clannad member Moya, to create this stirring soundtrack of “The Irish Revolution.”

Together they capture the raw emotion sparked by historic events such as the Great Hunger of 1847 through to the Irish Civil War in 1922–1923, creating a score of orchestral sweep and color to match the momentous events of the period, whilst depicting the sacrifices made by the Irish people in their quest for independence.

This collection of songs – originally produced as the soundtrack to the RTÉ documentary series from which the album takes its name – explores one of the most tumultuous times of the artist’s homeland: the Irish revolutionary period and its War of Independence.

The pieces within chart the events of this troubled time for the Irish people and display the hallmarks for which Pól Brennan’s music is revered – emotional depth and powerful storytelling. Even without the pictures they were composed to accompany, the songs take you back to a turbulent time and elicit powerful feelings with an orchestral and imposing grace. Given the source of inspiration, one may not be surprised that many tracks deliver a sense of tension and foreboding.

“The film was out in 2019/2020,” said Brennan. “I did the soundtrack around that time. I’ve done a lot of different scores. I wrote so much music for this one. It was a program of three one-hour documentaries.

“I’d write four-minute songs and then they would be used in the movie for 20 seconds. There were pieces there where I wanted to have people be able to hear the full songs. This one, I really wanted to go after it.”

Now, Brennan and his family are enjoying life on the road.

“Our last world tour was in 2013 and we haven’t played a lot since then,” said Brennan. “That’s why Cieran and Moya and I are enjoying it.

“We’ve added Jeff Lynch on drums and Moya’s two kids. Her son Paul plays keyboards and her daughter Aisling Jarvis plays strings and bouzouki.”

Initially known as Clann as Dobhar (Irish for Family from Dore), they shortened their name to Clannad in 1973. Clannad has always been family and they will be family until the not-far-in-the-future end.

Video link for Clannad – https://youtu.be/D0jBmdapDus.

The show at the Keswick Theater on September 14 will start at 8 p.m.

Ticket prices start at $45.

This weekend’s calendar features another band that has been around for a long, long time.


Art Alexakis, the mastermind behind the enduring band Everclear, is on the road again with his band.

The tour has a special theme. It’s the continuation of Everclear’s 30th anniversary tour.

On September 15, the tour will touch down at Rivers Casino Philadelphia (1001 Delaware Avenue, Philadelphia,www.riverescasino.com).

“We get on the bus every year for 6-8 weeks,” said Alexakis, during a phone interview last week from a tour stop in Nashville, Indiana.

2022 and 2023 have had 30th anniversary tours out on the road. In 2021, Alexakis brough his Summerland Tour to Philly. The Summerland Tour is an annual touring music festival, founded by Alexakis and mainly featuring bands that began in the 1990s alternative rock era.

This year’s tour has another reason for celebration – the release of Everclear’s new album, “Live at The Whiskey-a-Go-Go.”

Released on September 8 via Sunset Blvd Records, “Live at The Whisky a Go Go” was recorded and filmed in late 2022 during last year’s celebratory tour back in Alexakis’ hometown of Los Angeles and marked the first time Everclear performed at the famed venue.

The 17-track collection features all the hits and hidden treasures from throughout Everclear’s extraordinary catalog as well as two bonus studio tracks, last year’s single “Year of The Tiger” and new single “Sing Away.” The first offering from the forthcoming album is the 1995 hit “Heroin Girl,” off the band’s platinum-selling album, “Sparkle and Fade.”

“It’s a double live vinyl album,” said Alexakis. “The LP is loud. It’s rowdy and it has a lot of sing-alongs. It sounds like a live Everclear show.

“It has all our hits along with two deep cuts. We’ve got a lot going on – taking care of fans with something new. We’re a heritage band. People are coming for music from 20-25 years ago. But the fans also want new songs. It scratches the creative thing for me. I’m grateful.”

Everclear’s most recent studio album was “Black Is the New Black” in 2015.

“I write when I feel the need to write,” said Alexakis. “I write more when I’m playing guitar. I just got two new acoustic guitars. Playing guitars is just begging me to write songs.”

When Everclear got its start in 1991, it was a rock trio from the Pacific Northwest. More than anything, it was a vehicle for the music of Alexakis – the band’s vocalist and guitarist.

After the limited release of their independently released debut album, “World of Noise,” the band found success with their first three albums on Capitol Records – “Sparkle and Fade,” “So Much for the Afterglow,” and “Songs from an American Movie Vol. One: Learning How to Smile,” all of which were certified platinum.

Since forming in 1992, Everclear has enjoyed a lengthy career by any measure, spanning 11 studio releases, including four that have been certified Gold or Platinum, selling over six million records. The band has had 12 Top 40 Hit Singles on Mainstream Rock, Alternative, and Adult Top 40 radio, including “Santa Monica,” “Father of Mine,” “I Will Buy You A New Life,” “Wonderful” and “Everything To Everyone,” as well as numerous videos, thousands of shows, and various other accolades, including a 1998 Grammy nomination.

The current Everclear line-up features Dave French on guitar, Freddy Herrera on bass, Brian Nolan on drums and Alexakis on vocals and guitar.

“This line-up has been together for a long time,” said Alexakis. “This is Dave’s 19th year. Freddie has been our bass player since 2008 and Brian has been our drummer since 2015.”

Altogether, Everclear has released 10 albums. The most recent was “Black Is The New Black” in 2015.

“Our set list for this tour includes all the hits and fan favorites,” said Alexakis. “

That Alexakis is even able to go put on tour is somewhat of a minor miracle. If he had the nine lives of a cat, he’s probably already used three of them – including surviving a drug overdose when he was 22.

“More than that,” said Alexakis, as he pondered why he’s still alive at age 61. “I’ve had drug addictions but now I’m 34 years sober.”

In March 2019, Alexakis announced that he had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in a letter to fans posted on the band’s website. Alexakis said he was diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS following a car accident three years prior. He learned that he had likely been living with the disease for nearly 20 years. Since being diagnosed, Alexakis has donated one dollar from every ticket purchased for his performances to charities such as Sweet Relief Musicians Fund and National MS Society.

“I got MS and then I got COVID in 2021,” said Alexakis. “The combination of both was tough – just dealing with the fatigue. I was in bed for two months. For being older and having a disease, I’m feeling really good.

“MS is a Mexican standoff. If I get rest and eat right and keep up with my medications, I do all right. Right now, I’m feeling great.

“I’ve been working on my memoir and taking care of my family and my daughter. The book is not a ‘tell all.’ Bit with regard to me, the gloves are off. I’m brutally honest about myself. I’ve been married four times – not an accident because of the way I lived. Fortunately, I haven’t lived like that for a long time.”

Video link for Everclear – https://youtu.be/MW6E_TNgCsY.

The show at Rivers Casino on September 15, which has The Ataris as the opening act, will start at 8 p.m.

Tickets are $44.

On September 15, there will be a show by a relatively young band (11 years old) when the Fillmore Philadelphia presents Nothing But Thieves.

Platinum-selling English alt rock band Nothing But Thieves released their new album, “Dead Club City,” on June 30 and then headed to the states for an album support tour.

The band’s 18-date “Welcome To The DCC World Tour,” stops in Philadelphia on Friday night at The Fillmore Philadelphia (1100 Canal Street, Philadelphia, www.thefillmorephilly.com) with support from Kid Kapichi.

“Dead Club City,” available via RCA/Sony Music with U.S. distribution by AWAL, features Nothing But Thieves’ current radio single “Overcome” and their hit single “Welcome To The DCC” in addition to new single “Keeping You Around.” Epic pop track “Overcome” has already amassed more than 20 million global streams and is making waves at U.S. Alternative Radio, including LA’s famed KROQ, as well as SiriusXM Alt Nation.

Nothing but Thieves formed in 2012 in Southend-on-Sea, Essex with a line-up of lead vocalist and guitarist Conor Mason, guitarist Joe Langridge-Brown, guitarist and keyboardist Dominic Craik, bassist Philip Blake, and drummer James Price.

“Joe and I met at school,” said Mason, during an interview this week. “We were in a band together at a very young age. It was crap but we had a lot of fun. Dom went to the school opposite and came to my college for music lessons.

“We hit it off and decided to do a band with Joe. Ww wrote a bunch of songs and needed a bassist and drummer. We knew and loved Phil and Price from the local area, so it was an easy formation.”

In 2014, they signed to RCA Records and a year later in October 2015, they released their self-titled debut album. In addition to RCA, other labels were showing interest.

“There were lots of meetings,” said Mason. “One label told us to be a boy band and drop the drums and bass. Needless to say, we didn’t meet them again.

“Right from the start, RCA felt like a family. They believed in our vision, wanted us to do whatever we wanted to do and just genuinely were lovely people. It was an easy decision.”

The band’s debut album reached Number 7 on the U.K. charts.

“It was a surprise,” said Mason. “We didn’t take it too seriously when we were recording it. It was just a laugh. We were just soaking up the moment. We feel very lucky.”

The band’s sophomore album “Broken Machine” came out in September 2017 and reached Number Two on the U.K. chart.

“I think ‘’Broken Machine’ was a real breakthrough for the band,” said Mason. “It had a few songs that really connected to people. I think we had stepped up our songwriting a long way since the first album. It just featured better songwriting and us figuring out who we were as writers and as a band.”

Having been released in October 2020, Nothing But Thieves’ third album “Moral Panic” arrived at the same time as COVID. Obviously, the band’s trajectory was affected by the pandemic.

“It was pretty bad,” said Mason. “We had written and released an album but couldn’t tour. But I like to think it was very serendipitous. The song ‘Is Everybody Going Crazy,’ was written about Brexit and Trump but ended up connecting to our fans (and new people) about the craziness of COVID. It came out the week everyone was raiding shops for toilet paper and pasta in the UK.”

The band’s fourth album, “Dead Club City,” hit the shelves on June 30, 2023.

“I’d say a quarter of the songs on ‘Dead Club City’ were written during the pandemic,” said Mason. “We came together when restrictions loosened and then continued from then on. We worked on the album about a year and a half. We’d all had time to bank a load of ideas during the pandemic, which was useful.

“We lived at a country house in Essex and spent five months recording there. It was a dream — chicken coop, tennis and a hot tub. Good fun!

“We recorded the whole album there. We had to do a few drum takes elsewhere to get a particular sound but other than that everything was in one place.”

On this tour, Nothing But Thieves will be serving up old and new.

“On this tour, we’re playing a good majority of the new album and also songs right from the start,” said Mason. “We’re playing ‘Lover Please Stay’ which we haven’t played for years. We have to play ‘Amsterdam’, ‘Sorry’ and ‘Is Everybody Going Crazy?’ You gotta give the people what they want!”

Video link for Nothing But Thieves – https://youtu.be/Y3FNUvJYGpE.

The show at Fillmore Philadelphia on September 15 will start at 7:15 p.m.

Ticket prices start at $27.50.

Jamey’s House of Music (32 South Lansdowne Avenue, Lansdowne, 215-477-9985, www.jameyshouseofmusic.com) continues its tradition of presenting top quality blues music this weekend.

Area music fans know that Jamey’s House of Music is a primo spot to hear folk, jazz and blues music every Thursday through Sunday.

A few weeks ago, Jamey’s set up a Go Fund Me to raise money for emergency repairs due to severe water damage caused by negligent upstairs tenants. Already, the project has racked up the goal amount of $16,000.

LINK TO GO FUND ME FUNDRAISER PAGE — Fundraiser by James Reilly : Emergency Repairs for Jamey’s House of Music! (gofundme.com)

Jamey’s is throwing a thank-you party on September 14 as a way to return some of the love that you have shown us by supporting our GoFundMe campaign to raise the needed funds to repair water damage to our structure.

A great night of music, food and drink is in store, as well as a raffle for a signed acoustic guitar. Performers will be John Flynn, Criag Bickhardt and Lizanne Knott.

John Flynn is an American singer-songwriter and activist known for his powerful music and tireless efforts on behalf of the lost and the lonely, the shackled and scarred. His work follows in the footsteps of Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Kris Kristofferson, and other social justice troubadours as he speaks the truth and gives a voice to society’s disenfranchised.

When Craig Bickhardt steps onto a concert stage, he comes equipped with his trusty acoustic guitar. A side musician or two will frequently join him. He’s also accompanied by something invisible, yet ever-present: the stories of a lifetime, vividly translated into words and melody.

From the boisterous club scene of Philadelphia to the country-rock milieu of Los Angeles to the picking parlors of Nashville, Bickhardt has immersed himself in the sights and sounds of American music. His music reflects a life lived as a rock band lead singer, a solo troubadour, a dedicated songwriter, a husband and father. Dreams, heartaches and hard-earned lessons have fed his creativity.

Lizanne Knott is a native Pennsylvania singer-songwriter/guitarist who creates songs that are both deeply personal and universal in appeal.

She is as much at home in an intimate listening venue (including Nashville’s famed Bluebird Cafe) as she is rocking out with a band. As a solo act she has shared the stage with and/or opened for mainstream artists including Shawn Colvin, Joan Osborne, Josh Ritter and many more, and has headlined at some of the most prestigious theaters, concert halls and festivals throughout the UK and Spain. Her ability to connect and engage with her audience makes her a repeat favorite in her local town and up and down the east coast.

The benefit show, which is free, will get underway at 8 p.m. Online streaming simulcast video tix are just $15 for those who can’t make it to the live show.

On September 15, the venue will host Dave Orban & the Mojo Gypsie to benefit Jamey’s House of Music.

Founded in 1998 and based in the Central NJ/Philly area, Dave Orban & the Mojo Gypsies are a high-energy quartet that play a unique blend of up-tempo blues and old-school R&B. At a Gypsies gig, you’re likely to hear songs by such classic blues artists as T-Bone Walker, Ray Charles, Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson, Louis Jordan, Freddie King and Albert Collins, as well as music from contemporary blues performers including Rick Estrin, Rod Piazza, Kid Ramos, Paul DeLay, and James Harman, along with original material in the same vein.

The show will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door.

Duke Robillard will be the headliner on September 16.

Robillard has carved out one of blues’ most illustrious legacies, while also traveling through lofty related territories as a guitarist, vocalist, songwriter, bandleader, studio sideman, producer, label operator and educator. After showing an early affinity for music and guitar, he founded Roomful Of Blues with pianist Al Copley in Westerly, R.I., in 1967. By adding horns, Roomful announced itself emphatically as the prototypical jump blues band, and became a New England legend and a fixture beyond, as did Robillard himself.

By the time Robillard left Roomful after a dozen years, he was firmly established in the upper echelon of contemporary blues guitarists. Robillard went from Roomful to a stint with rockabilly revivalist Robert Gordon and then to the first iteration of the Legendary Blues Band, composed primarily of then-recent Muddy Waters sidemen.

The Duke Robillard Band debuted in 1981, re-emerging as The Pleasure Kings with their eponymous 1984 album on Rounder. It and its sequel, “Too Hot To Handle,” solidified Robillard’s songwriting portfolio. The 1987 jazz outing “Swing” (with saxophonist Scott Hamilton) underscored his versatility and remains a highlight.

The show on September 18 will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $40 in advance and $45 at the door.

The “Sunday Blues Brunch & Jam” is scheduled for every Sunday from noon-3 p.m. with the host band’s set from noon-1 p.m. followed by an open mic from 1-3 p.m.

The first, third, fourth and fifth Sunday sessions are hosted by the Philly Blues Kings while the hosts for second Sunday sessions are the Girke-Davis Project.

Kennett Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org) is hosting Ellis Paul on September 15 and Cicco on September 16.

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