For lovers of all things Celtic, Australian Celt rock band Claymore hardly need an introduction. Considered one of the biggest bands in Australia, they are firm festival favourites – and it isn’t hard to see why. Their festival sets always pack the house, and their upcoming shows at the National Celtic Festival in June promise to deliver all the goods. The Portarlington event in Victoria spans the June long-weekend and will be the last chance for Australian audiences to catch Claymore’s festival set before they head off to the world’s largest Celtic festival – Festival Interceltique de Lorient – in France this August.
Claymore are a band that turn Celtic rock on its head. The multi-instrumentalists not only manage to combine traditional elements of Celtic music, but they take that passion and soul and rock it right into the 21st century. Few bands can pull off the sensitive task of re-educating the traditional realm into the modern day, but that’s something of a specialty for Claymore. Not only that, but they manage to write beautiful original Celtic compositions, and even lend their style to some power rock classics, all with an Irish and Scottish twist. They have a host of impressive album releases under their belt and a long list of festival performances to their name.
Since the band’s inception more than two decades ago, they’ve toured everywhere, with gigs in New York, Scotland and New Zealand, to several headline appearances at Festival Interceltique De Lorient. They are so loved in France, that lead singer William Hutton is now an official representative for Festival Interceltique within Australia. Combine this with performances at the biggest festivals on the Australian circuit and you’ve got an impressive musical resume.
William says the band are looking forward to their performances at the National Celtic Festival, and they have been part of the event since the beginning. “We have had the great honour and played at every year since the festival moved to Portarlington, and for quite a few before when it was based in Geelong,” he says. “So around 110-114 times all up! We always put on a full-on Claymore show, which includes our Celtic dancers – the Clayettes from Glenbrae Celtic Dancers – so it is a music and dance spectacular.”
One of the Claymore traditions for the National Celtic Festival is their ‘special guest’ show on the last evening. The 2018 event will be no exception, with a swag of artists slated to join the band on stage, including long-time mate Damien Leith. “On the Sunday evening, Claymore normally do a special, extra-long concert,” says William. “During the first half, we get the chance to invite special guests from other bands and other artists attending the festival to come up on stage and do something together. It was the idea of festival director, Una McAlinden, a few years back and has become a very popular concert. The concept sees the guest artists taken a little out of their traditional comfort zones when they get up to sing with a Celtic rock band! It is great fun for us, the artists, and the audience alike.”
Damien Leith and Claymore have a long association. They’ve played many of the same events, and have shared the stage numerous times. The result is always entertaining and audiences should expect the unexpected. Claymore’s live shows are dynamic to say the least. Full of energy, audience participation is a must. It is not unusual to see audiences on their feet from the outset, singing and dancing along to the band’s outrageous antics.
Their performance at the National Celtic Festival is the perfect prelude to their sojoun to France in August for the Festival Interceltique de Lorient. “The June long-weekend performances are usually our last major Australian event before we head off for a summer tour in Europe, or the US,” says William. “Any new material we have been working on gets a good run at the National Celtic Festival and it is always good for the local audiences to get the first hearing. This year we have added the talents of a new keyboard player to the band, Vashti Sivell. She adds an atmosphere and dynamic to our sound that we are loving at the moment, and we are sure the audience will too.”