The ICHC has a policy of having "openers" at their concerts, which gives local bands some exposure (and is sometimes a real treat, since Queen of the Harp Kim Robertson has moved back to Milwaukee and counts as a local musician--). This time, we had the Steel Bonnets, who are Milwaukee's garage/grunge Celtic band. They are four burly men in kilts with an assortment of head and facial hair that suggests wild Scots, and they play an assortment of Scots and Irish rebel songs and standards loudly and with enjoyable vigor. Their lead singer/guitarist alternates between shouting and growling, but since the audience was singing along on pieces like "Boys of the Old Brigade," it didn't matter.
We were therefore well warmed up when the Weavers started their show, and as usual, they put on an excellent performance. Roy Gullane, the band spokesman and singer/guitarist, has greyed a bit but still leads the group with pixyish energy. The rest of the crew consists of Phil Smillie (flute, bodhran) the other founding member, John Martin (fiddle), Leslie Wilson (bouzuki, keyboards) who has rejoined the band after a brief stint in the 80's (when I first saw them), and their current piper, Colin Melville. (Pipers seem to cycle through the band more rapidly than others, perhaps because it is demanding work, and perhaps because only about half the band's arrangements actually call for bagpipe.) The Weavers are consummate musicians and play not only with wonderful energy and power, but with great beauty and skill. Biside the fun and humourous songs they play, the intricate sonorities of more somber pieces like "Farewell to Fuinary" are like listening to a symphony. They played two goodly sets and a rousing encore that included "our song" ("Atholl Highlanders") in the medley.
The Tannahill Weavers are a class act, and worth seeing where ever you can if you care for celtic music at all.