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13th Nov 2023

The Wolfe Tones announce their retirement after 60 years

Simon Kelly

The end of an era.

The Wolfe Tones have announced that they will be retiring next year after 60 years together.

The band, consisting of Brian Warfield, Tommy Byrne, and Noel Nagle, will call an end to their 60 years as one of Ireland’s biggest bands after their anniversary gigs in Dublin and Belfast in October 2024.

Wolfe Tones brought record crowds to this year's Electric Picnic
Wolfe Tones brought record crowds to this year’s Electric Picnic (RTÉ)

The Wolfe Tones announce retirement plans after anniversary gigs.

Byrne said that the upcoming milestone celebration, which features two shows in Dublin’s 3Arena and one in Belfast’s SSE Arena, prompted the decision from all members of the band to end their long careers on a high.

“I never thought that we would go on so long,” Tommy Byrne told the Irish Sun. “It’s been absolutely amazing, but I’m 80 next year and I think that would be a good time to stop.

“I brought this motion to Brian and Noel and they agreed. To go out on a high like this would be a great tribute to the band.”

Formed in 1964, the band’s most popular hit ‘Celtic Symphony’ caused a stir earlier in the year after they brought record crowds to Electric Picnic in September.

The song, which contains the infamous lyrics “Ooh, aah, up the Ra”, drew controversy from the likes of Bertie Ahern and Joe Duffy this year, while also landing the Ireland women’s national team in bother when they sang it after their famous World Cup qualifier win against Scotland. The band also recieved criticism from several unionists for playing the track during their set at the West Belfast Festival.

Speaking about their “special” performance in Stradbally, Byrne admitted it would be unlikely they’d perform there again.

“They’d hardly want to see us playing the Picnic in wheelchairs. I’m fit and healthy but all the travelling we do does wear you down.

“We always agreed that if one of us passed away, we wouldn’t continue by getting in new Wolfe Tones to replace them.

“So we’re doing the SSE Arena in Belfast next October then the two shows at the 3Arena Dublin and that’s it.”

 

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Byrne said that Warfield “would like to go on with The Wolfe Tones until he drops,” despite the 77-year-old struggling with a neurological disorder over recent years.

Warfield added: “I’d rather die on stage than in a nursing home, but I respect Tommy’s decision. It’s probably the right thing to do.

“I’ve seen other bands, I won’t name, who were huge in America but ended up playing dingy pubs. I wouldn’t like The Wolfe Tones to go that way. I’ll be 78 next year and Noel will be 79, so it’s time.”

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