Review: The Alt Bring Ireland To Waimea


The Alt
Kahilu Theatre
March 23, 2018    

Although separated by over 7,000 miles, Waimea’s rolling green hills, sheep pastures, and foggy days make it often feel like Ireland. And when the Celtic folk trio, The Alt, came to play the Kahilu last Friday, their two-hour concert made Ireland seem a lot closer.

The Alt features singer-guitarist John Doyle, bouzouki player-singer Eamon O’Leary, and fiddler Kevin Burke, who temporarily replaces original member Nuala Kennedy for this tour of Hawaii. The trio’s name is from a mystical place – a ravine on the slopes Knocknarea in County Sligo in northwest Ireland, and the Irish poet William Butler Yeats once wrote about a man who went there in search of enlightenment. The band rehearsed their 2014 debut album, and guitarist John Doyle’s family lives there.

John Doyle

The Dublin-born, Grammy-nominated Doyle asked the Kahilu crowd halfway through the first set, “How many of you have been to Ireland?” Surprisingly more than half of the audience raised their hands and cheered. Doyle smiled and realized the right crowd had come to see the show. Doyle has worked with many of the most notable performers in Irish music and his significant talents as a guitarist, songwriter and singer have made him as a veritable resource of Irish music traditions.

Kevin Burke

Taking center stage was the London-born master fiddler, Kevin Burke, who charmed the audience with tales of old Ireland, and wittingly worked in a pitch to buy a CD or two during the intermission. “Christmas is nearly here,” joked Burke, “which is why we brought our CDs along… if you have friends who like this music, or enemies who don’t, well, you can get all of your Christmas shopping done tonight.”

In 2002, Burke was awarded a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, the highest honor given in the United States for folk and traditional arts. It didn’t take long for Burke to get the crowd clapping and stomping their feet once he broke into a traditional Irish jig. There were a few singalongs too.

Eamon O’Leary

Also from Dublin, is Eamon O’Leary. He’s one of the most in-demand Irish vocalists and guitarists in the US.  Eamon started playing Irish music while growing up in Dublin. When he moved to New York City’s Lower East Side in the early ‘90’s, he immersed himself in the city’s traditional music scene and traveled widely, performing with many of the great players in Irish music. O’Leary’s brilliant harmony vocals and bouzouki playing blend perfectly with John Doyle’s accomplished lead guitar.

Doyle, Burke, and O’Leary, greeted fans in the lobby after the show who were eager to have their CDs signed and ask questions.

Doyle, Burke, and O’Leary

After their two-island tour (Oahu and Hawai’i) The Alt take a short break before returning to the road where they’ll next play a concert in Berryville, Virginia on April 12.

Set I
What Put The Blood/Banshee/The Sailor | Willie Angler | Paddy’s Return/Willy Coleman’s Jig/Up In The Air | Liberty | Lucy’s Fling/S’iomadh Rud A Chunnaic Mi/Some Say The Devil Is Dead | Across The Western Ocean| Amelia |Quebec

Set II
Pipe/Jigs | London Town| Going For A Soldier, Jenny | O’Carolan’s Concerto/ Loftus Jones | Navy | Willie Taylor


To connect with The Alt, visit their website:

Nuala Kennedy:

John Doyle:

Kevin Burke:

Eamon O’leary:

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