I had not heard of the Dallas, Texas Celtic rock band the Killdares before I watched their recently released concert DVD Up Against the Lights. The first thing I noticed was the professional look. There's a polished, modern style to the editing that gives it the feel of an arena rock show. The second thing that got my attention was the non-stereotypical songwriting evident in their originals. I was halfway expecting standard songs about whiskey, murder and politics - you know...Celtic rock stuff - but actually what I picked up on was a 1960's "smile on your brother" kinda vibe coming from drummer and lead vocalist Tim Smith's lyrics. Pleasantly surprised.
Yes, the fiddling of Roberta Rast and the bagpiping/uillean piping of Matt Willis are what put the word Celtic into descriptions of the Killdares, allowing the group to serve as a sort of gateway band for rock fans with an interest in Celtic music. Roberta and Matt are both excellent players of their chosen instruments, and it's especially cool to hear the somewhat exotic uillean pipes in this context. (Uillean rhymes with illin' like a villian). The Killdares have also perfected an exuberant video-friendly stage presence that adds to the buzz exerted by the music. On the other hand, a highlight for me came late in the DVD when Tim Smith switched to bodhran for a medley of acoustic fiddle tunes with Roberta Rast before the rest of the band joined in; toning things down a bit to focus on the essence of the music.