The Chieftains bring traditional Irish-folk tunes to Phillips Center
Published: Thursday, February 7, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, February 7, 2013 at 8:32 a.m.
Paddy Moloney is an outlier.
What: Traditional Irish-folk ensemble performs as part of its 50th-anniversary world tour
When: 7:30 p.m. Sunday
Where: Phillips Center, 3201 Hull Road
Info: 392-2787, Ticketmaster.com
His career has not followed any sort of archetypal arc. There is none of the “sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll” tidiness to his story. In 1962, Moloney started a band called The Chieftains that played traditional Irish music. Keep in mind this is roughly the same time The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Beach Boys and Bob Dylan all started. Needless to say, traditional Irish music wasn’t exactly a hot commodity.
Yet, the Chieftains found success and continued to expand that success doggedly. Their work led to a rap sheet that most bands — even very successful ones — don’t even dream of, including performances for the pope and Queen Elizabeth, six Grammy Awards, collaborations with everyone from Paul McCartney to Ziggy Marley and an appearance on the Great Wall of China (perhaps the only venue that can be seen from outer space).
Last year, they added another unlikely stat to the list — after 50 years, The Chieftains are still making music. They will perform at the Phillips Center on Sunday as part of their 50th-anniversary world tour.
“It just crept up on us,” Moloney says in his soft Irish brogue. “It’s been an incredible musical journey. A few years ago, my wife was asked, ‘When is he ever going to retire?’ And she said, ‘For the last 10 years, he’s been in rehearsal for retirement.’”
Moloney admits that the road to 50 years hasn’t always been easy.
“In the first 25 years there, it was tough going because we’re not a rock ’n’ roll group,” he says. “We’re not going to sell a million albums. We were a traditional Irish group, and still are. It was difficult. We got breaks. I ran a record company, got to know what was going on. It was very, very busy — maybe touring nine months of the year and the rest of the time in the studio. It was very tough on the family life.”
Somehow, the group made it work, and although several members have retired over the years, Moloney still leads the group as he has done from its inception. He says that one key to their longevity has been collaboration with other popular artists.
“We had admirers out there, people like Henry Winkler — the Fonz, you know — and Roger Daltrey,” he says. “You know, The Who used to throw televisions out of hotel windows, and now he’s on our album. It just went on like that. Paul McCartney had me on two of his albums. Then I decided, maybe it might be interesting if I approached all these friends and said, ‘How about doing a track for me?’ I was so lucky everyone agreed.”
The Chieftain’s most recent album, 2012’s “Voice of Ages,” sees them collaborating with artists who weren’t even born when the band formed, including Bon Iver and The Decemberists.
“It was so interesting to me to see the way they worked,” Moloney says.
Ultimately, no matter whom they work with, The Chieftains will always be about traditional Irish music, Moloney says.
“We still deliver the same show, and give a taste of what we’ve been doing on our 50 albums.”
And, he says that even after 50 years, bringing the music he loves to audiences all over the world never gets old.
“The touring is the worst part — the travel and the security and all that kind of stuff, the rubbish you have to go through in order to get on that stage, but once you’re there, it’s like coming home.
“You’re in somebody’s parlor.”