The Young Dubliners: Live at Mozambique
“You see that woman in the wheelchair? Her and her husband flew from Arizona to watch them play.”
If I was told that before the show kicked off I would’ve been confused to say the least. But hearing that after I watched The Young Dubliners perform what they called a “warm up,” it made perfect sense. Even as they approach the 31st anniversary of their formation, they bring a level of charisma and skill that many younger acts couldn’t hope to match.
I also found out that night I was already familiar with their talents. This realization came as I was passing by the merchandise table and recognized an album cover that had graced my iPod in earlier days. The album, “With All Due Respect – The Irish Sessions,” had a song called “The Foggy Dew” that was in regular rotation when I was 14, during my months-long Celtic Rock phase. I have no Irish family, have never been to Ireland, and didn’t have any patriotic Irish friends, so how that phase started is a mystery to this day. That being said, unexpected nostalgia is always a treat.
The Young Dubliners are a troupe of five. Keith Roberts handles the lead vocals, along with acoustic guitar. Brendan Holmes is on the bass, Dave Ingraham mans the drums, and Justin Pecot, who’s been with the band for about a year, plays lead guitar. Then there’s Chas Waltz, who spreads his talents between the violin, keyboard, harp and mandolin, along with the harmonica.
The chemistry between them is something to behold. They started off the show with a driving instrumental piece. One by one they kicked into action, building upon their rhythm and building suspense in turn. As it approached a breaking point, the music exploded in a violin-laced fanfare, prompting the Spirits of Music to move the feet of everyone in the room.
After taking a brief break to introduce themselves to the crowd, they charged right back into their set. Keith and the band brought powerful vocals to complement their playing, with up to four of them singing at once during certain parts. They played a range of hits from across their career, including a new, unnamed track, and others such as “Come Back Home,” “Seeds of Sorrow” and “Ashley Falls.” Throughout the show, Justin would whip out intricate guitar solos that amazed the audience. With every note he hit, he showed us why this long-established band brought him into the fold.
Around that time, a nice lady, who I’ll call Donna, noticed me standing next to her near the front of the crowd. She took me by the arm and started swaying me back and forth as the Celtic tunes raged on. She then leaned closer, pointing to a man nearby.
“That’s my husband,” she says, laughing as she continued to sway me. I see him looking at me with a confused yet carefree expression on his face.
I’m not in a home-wrecking mood that night, so I turn my attention to the band and they do a good job of keeping it. By that point, they’ve launched into an instrumental that made me feel like we were charging into a battle to defend the homeland. I listened to see if there were any enemy forces heading toward the doors, and felt something hit my arm. I turned and saw the husband throwing some playful jabs as he laughed and maintained a one-man mosh pit.
Realizing that I might not be a threat to this marriage, I got more comfortable with them and struck up conversation during the intermission. Donna tells me she’s a fairly recent convert to the fandom; her husband introduced her to the band about two years ago, and she’s been keeping up with them ever since. She introduces me to some of her friends, including one who told me to let her know if I had any questions about the band.
I’ll call said friend Jean Smith, after the last female U.S. Ambassador to Ireland, because she might as well be their official spokesperson. She tells me that she’s been on the Dubliners train for two decades, and from what I can tell she’s more of a friend than a fan. She recounts their origins, the acts they’ve supported (including platinum-selling British rockers Jethro Tull), and personal stories about the members.
Along with being an electric front man, Keith is apparently an entertaining drinking buddy, known to have a wide arsenal of stories to whittle the night away. After watching him constantly joke with the crowd, the story checks out.
It’s at that moment my attention turns to Chas. He’d been switching between the violin, keyboard, harmonica and mandolin all night, and just when I thought the magic reached its peak, he was on the stage alone, violin in hand. He dove into a 10-minute solo that would’ve made Bach blush. We all stared in awe as he maintained a focus that couldn’t even be broken by my obnoxious camera flashing right in his face. By the way, Chas, if you’re reading this, I am very, very, very sorry.
As the show neared its end, their talents floored me, but something was missing. Then, just as the thought occurred, something was missing no longer. I heard those first driving kicks of “The Foggy Dew” and was thrown right back into my early teenage years. My excitement brought about some of the worst Irish dancing the world had ever seen, but I couldn’t care less. I saw people of all ages and walks of life, from 50-year-olds in Hawaiian shirts, to 20-somethings in leather jackets, shout the lyrics of a song that I was once shouting alone in my room.
I could go on, but you need to see them first-hand to get a sense of what I’m saying. You can find their upcoming tour dates here, and be sure to check Irvine Weekly to stay updated on the Orange County music scene.