The High Kings take DeKalb on a folkacoaster

By Jamie O'Toole, Columnist

Playing 24 songs in two and a half hours, the High Kings took audience members of all ages on what they call a “folkacoaster,” singing covers, true stories and original songs. 

Irish Folk band The High Kings, consisting of Finbarr Clancy, Brian Dunphy and Darren Holden, visited Dekalb Saturday night at the Egyptian Theatre, 135 N 2nd St. 

Jamming out with acoustic guitars, an accordian, a keyboard, banjo, mandolin and a Bodhrán, an Irish frame drum, the High Kings had fans out of their seats, tapping their feet and singing along. The High Kings instantaneously created an inclusive environment for everyone to gather and relate with one another.  

“We’re happy to be back at the Egyptian Theatre for a second year,” Dunphy, co-singer and Bodhrán player said. “After 12 years of doing this, this tour has been the most fun.”

The band was about to play the fifth song of the night, “The Black Velvet Band,” a soft gentle song about a young lady and her eyes that “shine like diamonds.” Before doing so, the band members recalled a moment from last year’s show in DeKalb when an audience member named Caleb, who was in the crowd Saturday, came up to sing the song. This year he chose not to go on stage. 

Although Caleb decided to sit this one out, a couple who happened to be celebrating their 4-month anniversary was called to the stage. The High Kings handed the young couple $80 and asked them to dance along to the next song, a cover of “The Rising Sun.” As the couple walked off, the band handed them a signed paper with the lyrics to the song.

Forming this connection with the audience by inviting them to the stage to dance or sing relates the lyrics to their lives. This couple’s love, however long it may last, will always have lyrics to demonstrate the connection they share. Folk songs tell a story, and the High Kings now played a part in their love story. 

After a short break, the High Kings were back for more, encouraging fans to sing along. By the penultimate song everyone in the crowd was up from their seats clapping and singing along as the bright lights lit up their faces. 

Dunphy thanked the crowd for its support and for stories they hear from fans such as how grandparents hand their songs down to grandchildren and how soldiers listen to them while they’re out fighting for the country. 

“The Parting Glass” ended the night, evoking a sense of departure, an end. Strumming their guitars and the accordion to the lyrics, “So fill to me the parting glass and drink a health whate’er befalls. Then gently rise and softly call.  ‘Good night and joy be to you all.’” This made for the perfect song to wrap up the concert. 

From true stories to classics, folk music acts as a way to communicate lessons, hardships and experiences to people all over the world. It tells universal messages that remain relevant time and time again, and the High Kings kept that tradition going strong.

The High Kings connected with fans in a way that not only added to the impact of their lyrics but to the show as a whole. The people in DeKalb did not just come to see the High Kings, The High Kings came to see the people in DeKalb.