The cultural phenomenon that is Celtic Thunder has some of its strongest roots in Pittsburgh.
That early support is not lost on the multi-platinum Irish group returning to the Benedum Sept. 16 for yet another headlining performance. The members are on a 75-city 10th anniversary tour,
“There can’t be a Celtic Thunder tour without a Pittsburgh show. It’s in the rules,” says Ryan Kelly, a principal singer with the group since its 2007 inception.
”The city has always been so good to us. I know there’s a great musical and Celtic tradition within the city and I’ve always found that the people of Pittsburgh come to a show to enjoy themselves. And I’ve no doubt this time around will be any different.’’
An Irish party
It’s basically an Irish party, the native of County Tyrone in Northern Ireland says.
He was born and raised in a small village called “The Moy” and still resides there between world tours. “We try to bring anyone coming to our concerts on a journey to our homeland through the songs and stories we tell,” Kelly says, “and ask them to sing along with us, while we cover some modern tracks that will be very familiar around the world, but with our own take on them.”
It’s very important to keep a show as fresh as possible, for both fans and performers alike, he acknowledges.
Music with a fresh face
“For us, this generally means new tracks and this tour is no different. However, the vast majority of the songs we’re performing have never been seen on a Celtic Thunder tour before. So we’re excited about that,” Kelly says.
The new music can be found on “Celtic Thunder X,” a deluxe double CD and DVD package, released in March.
While debuting songs and new arrangements of older classics always keeps it fresh, he adds, for him a new city, with a new crowd every night of the tour, always brings a new challenge which makes it difficult to become stale.
A bright future
Even after 10 years as a touring group, he still believes Celtic Thunder has a long way to go on its journey.
“When I look back at where we have been and the roller-coaster ride this has been over the last decade, it really makes me smile,” he says. The accomplishments have been impressive:
• Celtic Thunder has become one of public television’s largest draws. Their shows have aired over 22,500 times across 50 states on PBS.
• The group is among the top five audience-generating acts on the network.
• Celtic Thunder has sold over 3.4 million albums in the US, combined, toured the U.S. and Canada, coast to coast, 12 times, and Australia four times performing almost 1,000 shows to date, selling well over 1 million tickets.
• The group has been hailed as the trade magazine Billboard’s “Top World Music Artist,” along with “Top World Music Imprint” and “Top World Album” of 2008, 2009, 2011, 2015 and again in 2016.
• The Celtic Thunder official YouTube channel, “Thunder Tube,” has received over 98 million views since 2008 and has more than 138,000 subscribers.
Why it resonates
Kelly says Celtic music has impacted so many over the years and it’s a privilege to still be bringing it to other parts of the world.
He believes Celtic Thunder resonates, touches people in the enthusiastic manner in which it does, because fans really appreciate genuine honest storytelling.
“And I think that’s exactly what we do through our songs. Throw in with that a lot of fun and that’s what people seem to want to come back to see and hear every time,” he explains.
Rex Rutkoski is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.