Given the recent news that Loreena McKennitt has decided to take an indefinite leave from music, I feel like ‘Live At The Royal Albert Hall’ now holds a slightly different place. Across the twenty tracks, I feel like its a celebration of the last 30 plus years of her career and signing off – at least for now.
Loreena McKennitt has a timeless quality to her music. International as the music may be, her voice is still as strong and expressive as ever. The musical craft of all the players is spot on and for the majority of the live performance, you can barely tell its live at all. Everything is that well-drilled and performed. Where I personally find the joy in these live performances are the small flourishes like the finale of ‘The Old Ways’ and ‘The Bonny Swans’ or getting a clearer recording of fiddles and ancient instruments of earlier albums.
I do have a word of warning though and it is a strange one to give. If you have all the albums and in particular ‘Nights from the Alhambra’ – the 2006 live CD/DVD release – you have heard everything before. Thankfully the setlist is different enough between the two live releases, which was a wise step. However, these songs are performed so well and so exacting to their original recordings that sometimes without the crowd cheers between songs you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d bought a best of! It seems like such a strange comment to make – ‘she’s too good live’. If say there were extended outros, changed up introductions – it would make tracks feel different and evolved for a live performance. I appreciate that may be a bit divisive to suggest but I’d argue arranging songs slightly differently for each tour would see people come back time after time to hear the new flavour.
That being said, you cannot fault the precision and performance in itself. Lorenna McKennitt is still an absolute powerhouse of Celtic infused folk music. Whereas Alhambra had a more Eastern instrumentation set up, this returns to a more Celtic arrangement. It’s subtle but its there. It is an absolute joy to listen to and serves as a lasting reminder of her talents until we hear from Loreena again. A pitch-perfect farewell for now.
Recommended track: The Bonny Swans
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