Monday, August 29, 2011

San Francisco

Hey....I am flying...for a change

Well San Francisco was everything I wanted it to be....and some more.

Arriving there puts in me a good mood. The town has the feel of Europe....with an American accent. I love the predictable fog and the hills. I love the houses sloped against the right angle roads. I love that 30 minutes walking replaces cardio in the gym.. I love that I can taste every nations food in a 5 minute walk. I like hearing the gulls remind me of home. Now I have a new love....well, an old love.

AT&T Park, despite the corporate name is a wonder. An arena full of the American dream. I guess I had no idea how many people would be there. Sold out the sign read as I arrived to sing the National Anthem for the Giants / Astros games. I then read that all 64 games this season sold out. With the average ticket at $100 and 42,000 seats sold, someone is making a lot of money.

The publicist for my shows in San Francisco and his partner met me at the corporate entrance and we were escorted into the bowels of the building only to surface right behind home plate. I was awestruck and immediately fell in love. The atmosphere was buzzing. The Giants had won the night before and you could feel it. Optimism everywhere. So I waited to walk onto the diamond. I was in no way nervous. It felt like I was about to get on a fairground ride. I was escorted to the microphone and after a short introduction began singing. I started in a key lower than I was used to and as soon as I finished the first sentence and began the second, I heard the first sentence coming back at me in a strange auditory backslap. It was hugely disconcerting but I sang through it and indeed reached the end without messing up the words(nod to Christina Aguilera) or hitting a bum note(hat tip to Rosanne Barr). The song is difficult but if you approach it's simplicity and offer no theatrics , it all becomes easier. I don't think the song should be performed....just honored.

As the roar went up toward the last sentence I felt that instant in slow motion. All at once I was on that plane 20 years ago when I first arrived in the US. I had no idea then that I would make a small mark, my mark. There, on Saturday at a ball game, I realised that I have achieved what I set out to do all those years ago. I am fulfilled and happy. I have made myself a part of the US. At the same time, I am making people wonder where I come from, who my parents are and wonder whether they will ever get to Ireland.I indeed am part of two worlds.

The Giants people asked me with little notice to sing the 7th inning stretch. I said I would be happy to but then quietly asked "what is the 7th inning stretch". I was then sent a clip of Take Me out to the Ballgame". I was led up to where the videotron is at the park and there, with the backing of a 40,000 piece choir, I sang the song....well it isn't a song you sing, as roar in a bawdy singsong kind of way. I finished and the walk to the exit was filled with fathers and son's, kids, frat guys and grandmothers giving me backslaps, high fives,hugs and photo ops. I felt the love and the respect. People were grateful I came along. "hey Irish, you sang good"!

I got a car home to my hotel and decided I should celebrate by heading to the rooftop bar overlooking the city. I ordered a lovely red zin from Lodi, not far from the city. Savoring the vino and the moment I looked across the city. The fog had settled in and it still looked stunning.

My calm was ruined by a group of young professionals. I realised they had been at the Ann Coulter appearance in the theater nearby. They began talking about her and I heard that they idolised her. They had drank the coolaid that even Ann Coulter doesn't drink, even though she makes it. I have never heard such hatred disguised as humor and the fact that it came from seemingly educated go getters made it all the more horrific. There was jokes and put downs about people with AIDS, about muslims, about President was endless. I couldn't take anymore. I left the bar and as I was going , one of the loud women of the group said to me "Hey handsome, did we make you move...sorry about the noise!" She laughed and I replied "it wasn't the noise or your politics, it was the vitriol". I left.

On Sunday I boarded the on/off bus. I saw The Presidio, Golden Gate Park, Nob Hill, The Castro, Haight Ashbury, Alcatraz, The Bay. It was a day off to savor. I loved it from start to finish. I have said it before - If only San Francisco wasn't so far West. I want to live there.

I will be back to perform Dec 12 - Jan 2. Tickets are available NOW

Home for 10 days and then back to the West Coast for Live Pledges in Seattle KCTS 9 Sept 12 and San Bernardino KVCR Sept 13

Friday, August 26, 2011

Hey Y'all

How great is inflight internet!! I am en route from South Carolina to San Francisco. I just had 48 hours in the lovely city of Columbia, SC.

The South has always intrigued me. I guess I've haven't spent that much time in the southern states and had preconceived notions that indeed, proved to be a good way.

I arrived in Columbia airport and was met by Debbie from the staff of SCETV.She made me feel like a million dollars with her warm welcome. What is it about Southerners and their hospitality? She left me at my hotel with time to get to know Columbia. I stayed in the nicest Hilton I've ever been in. The staff were so welcoming and when they accidentally sent me to a smoking room they were mortified and insisted on buying me breakfast....the way to my heart! Seriously, at this point I thought can everyone in the town be this lovely? The answer is YES!

First....and most importantly THE FOOD. The night before the pledge I went to a gorgeous restaurant called Hampton Street Vineyard. It was hot....really hot and that alone is my excuse for having a gorgeous glass of cool Rose. Now I lived in France so I know something about Rose. This type of wine is not so popular here and usually if I ask for it I get presented white zin which is not even close so I was very surprised to find a restaurant that had a choice. I ate at the bar and chatted with the very friendly locals while having the best Butternut Squash soup. It was totally random and fun.

Sometimes I try to hide my accent somewhat as invariably no matter where I go, people ask me the same questions about Ireland which can get repetitive if you just want to have some quiet time. Here, it didn't seem to matter. I talked, people chatted, we had a great time. A man at the bar recognised me from PBS so tried to buy me a round. I decided it was the best thing to make my excuses and get out of the place before things got out of hand. I have to have some sort of discipline when I am out on the road. I was singing live in the studio the next evening so I had to get some rest and stay away from the vino. What a lovely place though. The menu is remarkable and unexpected. Sophisticated, friendly and fun. a difficult thing to perfect.

I went for a run the next morning and swam in the gorgeous sea water pool at the Hilton. Badly needed in the Southern heat. I was ready to roll at 5pm for SCETV.

I have done a few pledges now so I am starting to be familiar with the process. SCETV was special. First the staff treated me like they knew me for years. Everyone from soundman to on screen talent were just lovely. The pledge was a success which was so great to know and I left with such a wonderful impression of the station. We chatted a lot off screen about They had heard a rumor that I am a pie lover. It is the best thing about the south in my opinion. We talked about important things like my favorite pies...I have many.....coconut cream being the top.

If anyone has any new suggestions for pies , by the way, I want to hear them. eg. I had a raisin cream pie recently which was superb. I am not a lover of the fruit pie. I like a cream filling or pecans...or both! Any kind of custard is good too. OK I must stop talking about pies!

So I left this morning with a 4.30 am wake up. Oy! I didn't sleep well at all thru the night knowing i had this travel day ahead of me. I am fine with travel really but if I haven't slept at all it just kills me. The best thing however is inflight internet. I can actually get work done en route. Where am I off to? San Francisco to sing for the Giants game. I've to learn Take me out to the Ballgame as well as singing the Anthem. I was asked how it felt to be singing a foreign anthem this week. I was shocked. The US Anthem is not at all foreign to me. It is a thrill and an honor every time I sing it. I haven't done a Christina Aguilera on it yet !!!

I dont feel like a foreigner here. I have a green card and feel American. I don't know what I will do when I am eligible for citizenship. I want to vote but part of me wants to remain Irish. I think I can have dual citizenship so maybe I will do that.

So this week has been all about the launch of the the album and indeed I can tell you now that as of Sept Razor and Tie will release not only my dvd and cd of Beyond Celtic but a collection of other recordings called The Road Not Taken. On this album you will find studio versions of some of the songs of the live show. You will also however find several unreleased tracks. I will put up a teaser or two for you next week. I think you will be pleased. My producer Steve Skinner has done a great job as usual and he just makes me sound good. There are a few surprises on this. I listened to some of the tracks last night and I really am proud of them.

Sharon Browne from Celtic Thunder gave me a shout out on the forum this week which resulted in many loyal Thunderheads signing up to show me some support. I was just thrilled. I haven't a big machine to help me with this so to have someone as great as Sharon spread the word, it is HUGE for me. I've come to know the boys in CT so well and they've become friends. They have done nothing but be encouraging and I am delighted with their encouragement and recommendation to the fans. They head over to the US soon and boy have Thunderheads a treat in store for them.

More tour dates have come in this week, in the North West and North East. I will post them over the next few days.

Anyways, as I fly to San Francisco, I can't help thinking how lucky I am to be doing this. 10 years ago today I did my last show with Riverdance. It took me a few years to climb out from under it's protection indeed, it's harness. I am so grateful to the show for giving me my big break but also teaching my life lessons on being a performer on and off stage. I am very proud to have been part of it.

I played San Francisco in my first tour with Riverdance. Now I am coming back to the theater district in S.F. with my own show. A full circle moment. I am excited about it. but first.....

I have a few things to do this weekend while there, to plan for my holiday concerts but mostly i plan on enjoying the ballgame(once i figure out how it is played!) and the San Francisco atmosphere. Anyone got any recommendations for restaurants?

Gawd, now I am back to thinking about pie.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Life on the road

Its Wednesday

I am just back from Pittsburgh pledge. The people at the WQED were so great. The whole experience of pledges is scary for a newbie especially as i am doing them on my own. The team in Pittsburgh made me feel so welcome. Being on camera was grand and I love meeting all the public television volunteers who man the phones.

Home for a few days to live a normal life; to cook, to lie on my couch, to watch my tv, to go to my gym to chat with my friends and to

The past few weeks at the start of this mammoth campaign to spread the word on Beyond Celtic has been exciting and indeed thrilling at times with a few undoubted highlights like when my friend P. who is a backing singer in the show watched the show with me for the first time. She forced me to watch as I had never watched it through. Anyways, armed with a bottle of Prosecco we sat down together. I, of course cringed at the whole experience and found fault in everything I did. Phyllis on the other hand screamed “ look at me, look at me, I’m on TV every time she caught a glimpse of herself. She texted with another friend who took part. They discussed how good they looked in “their“ special. Anyways, it made it all the more special for me to watch their reactions and indeed it was for this very reason that I asked them to be part of it.

I wanted to have my friends around me to represent who I am as an artist and as a person so the show is a fairly accurate painting of me. It was really more important to me than anything else that they share this experience with me. I have found as I get older that this is what makes me tick. Shared experiences.

Anyways, once we finished watching on WNET Channel 13 off we went down to Jean Clancy’s gorgeous wine bar in Sunnyside , NY. Jean is the girl who makes the magic happen for the boys in Celtic Thunder. She and Sharon are the brilliant masterminds behind the mammoth operation that is CT. I am proud to have Jean is a friend and supporter. She also happens to own a wine bar which is phenomenal. Anyways in I walked and ordered my favorite Spanish wine Juan Gil. I celebrated that night, not only that I had witnessed the launch of my special but also my life and the people in it. We laughed a lot and talked about the days when I first arrived in New York s a penniless young fella. I haven’t made my million yet but I’ve made my mark . I couldn’t be prouder.

My first live pledge visit was in San Francisco. I invited along Owen Barrington the world champion Irish dancer featured in the show. He flew up from Long Beach to join me for the pledge. I figured it is always good to add someone young, handsome and talented to the line up on tv......wait a minute , he makes me look bad! Owen is creative, talented and outgoing and it showed during the pledge. He was a big hit and you will see him again soon on other live pledges. We managed to escape for a few pints in Foleys which is really a great Irish pub in San Francisco. I imagine I will be back a few times in December.

So Sharon Browne mentioned me and the show in her blog on last night and the result was my website exploding with visits by Thunderheads. It was astounding. I have been a friend of Sharon since her Celtic Woman days.She really is inspirational. I watched her build that into a huge show and indeed she has done the same with Celtic Thunder. I know the boys in the show and they are all a great bunch. Lots of changes are happening at the moment but I know one thing...the future is looking very bright for the Thunder show. She knows the business better than anyone and she knows what makes you Thunderheads happy.

So Celtic Thunder has their Thunderheads, someone asked me last night what we should call my fans. Now I know my friends at home will have some smart answers to that but if anyone has any thoughts.....?

So it is Chicago for the weekend before I head to South Carolina SCETV for a pledge and then on to sing the National Anthem for the Giants in San Francisco. I really don’t quite understand baseball….no really…haven’t a clue how it all works but I plan on enjoying the evening. It will involved hot dogs and beer. What’s not to love?

We are adding dates all the time so the spring certainly looks busy. We have more dates to add this week. With any luck I might get to take some time off after that . I fancy a month or two in Spain and am keeping that as a positive reinforcement to get me through the next few months.

I guess though that busy…… is good.

Livin the dream, yes, Livin the dream!