The recent tour of England and Scotland was a memorable trip for me. It began with a visit to Liverpool's Anfield Rd. with my son Andy and our good friend Michael Devine. The game was between Liverpool and Newcastle and, being neutral, I sat in the middle. It was an exciting prospect to be back at an English soccer game again. During my time there I visited many football grounds in the course of my travels. Looking back, it seemed as if all those games were in black and white. Now, Anfield Rd. appears to be in HD with full wrap around sound. There are numerous merchandise stalls, betting shops and fast food counters. Every aspect seems hyped to the last. The actual game itself seemed neither as passionate nor as enjoyable. Certainly, the players are fitter now and just as skilful but the spirit of the game appears diminished. There was a strange moment at kick-off. One of the highlights of a visit to Anfield is the pre kick-off rendition of "You'll Never Walk Alone". 40,000 people singing this great song is an uplifting experience. Everyone appeared totally caught up in the moment. That is, everyone EXCEPT the referee who blew the whistle and started the game half way through this glorious anthem. It felt like 40,000 people got a simultaneous kick in the arse. I felt that moment encapsulated the problem that is slowly destroying the great game. Sky Schedules (and mammon) take precedence over everything else. These days, all major sporting arenas seem to have ear splitting sound systems blasting out inappropriate sounds. In fairness, despite this we had a great time. (But a grumpy old man gotta have his groan.)
Next day it was back into work mode and on up to York…Great to return to The Barbican and a most welcoming Yorkshire audience. Here are the setlists for the 6 gigs;
|York Nov 4th
1.City of Chicago
4.16 Fishermen Raving
5.All for the Roses
7.Farmer Michael Hayes
8.Viva La Quinta Brigada
10.Black is the Colour
12.Stitch in Time
15.Sun Shine In
20.Don’t forget your Shovel
1.City of Chicago
2.Black is the Colour
4.One last Cold Kiss
5.North & South
8.I Pity the Poor Immigrant
9.Don’t forget Your Shovel
11.Farmer Michael Hays
12.Stitch in Time
13.Sun Shine In
17.Hey Ronnie Reagan
20.Smoke & Strong Whiskey
21.All for the Roses
24.Go Move Shift
25.So Do I
29.Bright Blue Rose
1.City of Chicago
2.Viva la Quinta Brigada
3.Smoke & Strong Whiskey
5.North & South
10.Farmer Michael Hayes
11.Stitch in Time
12.Sun Shine In
19.Back Home in Derry
24.Black is the Colour
2.City of Chicago
4.Smoke & Strong Whiskey
8.Galtee Mountain Boy
11.Missing You 12.Black is the Colour
13.No Time for Love
14.Boy From Tamlaghduff
17.Sun Shine In
19.Viva La Quinta Brigada
20.On the Bridge
22.Back Home in Derry
24.The Time has Come
25.Sacco & Vanzetti
31.Bright Blue Rose
1.North & South
5.Smoke & Strong Whiskey
9.All for the Roses
15. 2 Conneeleys
18.Sun Shine In
22. Plane Crash at Los Gatos
26.John O Dreams
27.Back Home in Derry
29.No Time for Love
10.Cry Like a Man
13.Smoke & Strong Whiskey
15.Back Home in Derry
16.Sun Shine In
20.No Time for Love
22.Black is the Colour
23.North & South
24.Cliffs of Dooneen
I had an interesting conversation about the setlists in Glasgow. A listener was trying to figure out how the sets were chosen. I could not offer any methodology as none exists. (Except for gigs such as Electric Picnic or Glastonbury where the performances are limited to a specific time and conditions are very different) I decide the opening number as we take our seats. “Chicago” was the favoured opener on this trip. It seemed to settle us all in straight away. The second song varied on all 6 gigs. After this conversation I decided to go through the setlists out of curiosity. We seem to have played 76 songs over the 6 gigs during which there were 174 renditions. 35 songs were performed but once and 6 were performed at all 6 gigs. I like the fact that every gig has its own shape. This keeps us on our toes. In the context of this work, Declan is happiest doing new material. Over the past 12 years I may have asked him 500 times “What will we do next?” His reply is almost always the same; “Biko Drum”. I enjoy the challenge when a song appears out of the blue, it might be a quiet request or a random thought or association. Declan never flinches, even if it is a song he has not heard before. Invariably he will have found his way in by the second verse. He is a master of song accompaniment.
I have had time on my hands since returning frae Glasgow. I had a wisdom tooth removed. It was recommended that I lay off singing for ten days. The tooth was fractured and had to go. There were potential consequences which, thankfully, did not arise. In the aftermath I hit a dark patch. Sometimes my confidence wanes and my enthusiasm for singing evaporates. New work loses its appeal and I am not drawn to the workbench. However, experience has taught me that this too shall pass. I gotta ride it out with patience, tolerance and faith in the power of healing.
There is much to be done. Recently I have been re-recording all my own songs and collaborations with a view to presenting them as a body of work. My songs have been scattered across decades of recording. Most of the repertoire has been gleaned from other writers and from the Tradition. It is my intention to “mark” my own work while I am still able to do so.
On a separate project I have been playing occasionally with a quartet of musicians. Namely Mairtín O’Connor, Jimmy Higgins, Cathal Hayden and Shamie O’Dowd. There is no specific plan at this time other then the sheer pleasure of sitting amidst this ensemble and singing. We had an outing in Lisdoonvarna last month and are planning another in Galway in early January. I love the buzz and thrust of singing with these great players.
I was invited to be part of the Simon Community’s Christmas campaign. The piece we recorded is currently being transmitted on the radio. Every day people stop me to talk about Simon. I simply urge them to follow through if they can.
We went to hear Rodriguez at Vicar St. last week. Having seen his film “Searching for Sugarman” (highly recommended) it was simply beautiful to sit listening to him sing. A kind and gentle man with beautiful songs and a wonderful band. At 70, and having gone below the radar for several decades, it was inspiring to see his resilience and hear his delivery. There were a small number of loutish boors in the room who insisted on shouting him down each time he tried to speak. This was a pity but he handled it with dignity and humour. Perhaps there is a lesson there for me. The concert was opened by Lisa O’Neill. Lisa came out unannounced and started to sing. By the end of her first song she had us all in the palm of her hand. She delivered a great set and cleared the way for Rodriguez. A great night. Thanks to all concerned.
We have added an extra date in Vicar St. on Tuesday, 8th January. All proceeds will go to the Peter McVerry Trust, towards there work with the Homeless. Next year will mark Peter’s 30th year of working amongst those in need.
Here are some new dates:
2nd & 3rd January 2013 Ardilaun Hotel, Galway (with Declan Sinnott, Mairtín O’Connor, Cathal Hayden, Jimmy Higgins and Shamie O’Dowd)
8th January 2013 Vicar St. Dublin (for the Peter McVerry Trust)
22nd & 23rd February 2013 Glór, Ennis
8th March 2013 Park Hotel, Mullingar
14th March 2013 Mount Wolsey Hotel, Tullow, Co. Carlow
20th & 21st March 2013 Waterfront, Belfast
29th March 2013 INEC, Killarney
11th May 2013 Shearwater, Ballinasloe
17th May 2013 Fairways, Dundalk
23rd May 2013 Pavilion, Rhyl
24th May 2013 Hay on Wye Festival, Hay on Wye
26th May 2013 Bath Pavilion, Bath
27th May 2013 The Riverfront, Newport
7th June 2013 Opera House, Wexford
6th July 2013 Marquee, Cork
Later there will be gigs in Limerick, Trim and Portlaoise.
If all goes well, see you along the way.
PS … I found the following Scottish Reflection on 4711ers.org
This website is a meeting place for many of our constant listeners. It was posted by Hilary Scanlon whose permission I sought before posting here.
The tour in Caledonia in November flew so fast, between family & gigs & 4711ers! It was some week, and was really great to be based in Glasgow. Four very different gigs, great company travelling around and so many different songs... each venue unique, with its own dynamic. I first went to Scotland in 1985 in my red Renault 4L! The four Scottish gigs were the final part of a tour that started in the historic town of York then onto Manchester before heading north. Three UK based 4711ers were joined by Adam for the full tour, with various Paddies, the Dutch supplier and the native Celts at the four Scottish gigs.
Edinburgh 9/11/12 was interesting. The Festival Hall is an old theatre with a very modern exterior just up the road from the railway station and near other recent venues in that city. Brian was good enough to offer Adam & I a lift to and from the gig. They sang 28 songs, Declan & Christy arrived on stage, acknowledging Auld Reekie to rapturous applause and opened with City of Chicago, the same song they had opened with the two previous nights. It was a very mixed setlist some old favourites mixed with some rare gems, Allende, Butterfly, Go Move Shift, This is the Day, and Declan’s regular now is Sun Shine In from his new solo CD, followed by the lovely duet Billy Gray. Then just half way through the gig CM declared that he remembered while driving to the gig that James Connolly was born in the town in 1868 and proceeded to sing a wonderful acapella version of Patrick Galvin’s ballad of James Connolly, you could hear the proverbial pin drop, then that special split second silence until the thunderous applause exploded. CM then dedicated the Contender by Jimmy Mc Carthy to an Alan O Connor from Macroom and saying “those Macroom boys like to stick together!” Coincidentally both these songs have Cork connections as James Connolly was written by late Patrick Galvin who CM has referred to as the “Poet of Cork”, a mantle which he has since passed onto John Spillane. Things proceeded then till Lisdoonvarna and more thunderous applause demanding an encore, and what an encore? after all the singing and foot stomping and clapping they stilled the night with Hurt followed by a very special and rare outing of CM’s own unique version of Spancil Hill drawing the gig to an end at about the two hour mark.
Fri 10/11/12 the day of the Barrowlands gig will stay with me forever, Brian and Adam & I were around town and Iggy B arrived in from Galway via a very early morning flight from Dublin! There was much discussion about the cold and the rain and what time would be good to start to Q outside those famous metal detectors and some prayers that the rain would clear!
As it turned out Adam and I got there very early to be sure to be sure, after the doors opened the front Centre stage was commandeered by Martin Mac, Anuk, Deirdre, Adam, Angela, Brian, Primula, Iggy B and I, Paul and Linda were there too as were Susie and Steph with their own gang, later Adam identified Michael Hayes (not the Farmer, who did the full tour). Even though we had been in Barrowlands before and have watched the DVD several (dozen?) times nothing prepares for the real thing!! The gig was mad and good and hot and noisy, a WONDERFUL gig. It was yet another UNIQUE night, but then aren’t they all?? but Barrowlands is really unique as CM has said many times “it’s his spiritual home” It was a really long gig with so many memorable moments, the sheer energy of the gig, the singing by everyone in the hall it seemed, the songs, with nods to emigration, global migrants, power hungry politicians, victims and perpetrators of injustice, not to mention weekends in exotic Amsterdam, the gig was something else and finished off with a raucous rendition of Lisdoonvarna. Until the encore, while the stage was empty the choir spontaneously hummed / clapped/ stomped The Lonesome Boatman when CM came back on stage he joined in on Bodhran, and declared “you can beat an egg, but you can’t beat an encore!!” This was followed by great hush & order for Morecambe Bay and the grand finale Bright Blue Rose, now tell me how do they do it? For over 2 hours and 10 mins?? We then had a small gaggle, how nice to sit down and drink cool, cool water after a Barrowlands gig? there was even a verse or two of “Take Me Home to Mayo” … then off we went out into the night air to review the gig and a few drinks the HQ hotel…
The Stirling gig on 11/11/12 was held in the Albert Hall, what another lovely room?? And a grand surprise - filled gig. Lar (aka Elvis) had arrived at this stage from a family wedding in Birmingham (is he ever @ home ??), Lar & Adam & I had great seats up on the front row of the balcony on stage left... a totally different perspective, it was great to watch the stage and side stage action, as well as the audience. They were a respectful audience, I think they were pleased that CM/DS had come to play in their neighbourhood, they seemed to know all the songs. All for the Roses was special on Remembrance Sunday. They really nailed other songs too Matty, Nancy Spain, Ride On, John O Dreams, Quiet Desperation ,North & South was a great start. They also shared some gems Two Connelleys, Strange Ways, Plane Crash at Los Gatos, Wandering Aonghus and the final song of the night was a rousing No Time for Love.
I found it fascinating to watch the audience from my perch high up in this horse shoe shaped room, those who were obviously engaged and those who sit so still and yet are absorbed and then to hear the singing from our perch was so, so different. No doubt the audience in Stirling was pleased that CM & DS came and played in their town, they were very receptive and engaged, it was such a different energy from Barrowlands only 2 nights previous.
There was a convoy of cars on the road that night, Brian and Lar in the Dutch Skoda and Jan in her Scottish Skoda, I was driving my sister’s car with Adam and Angela and Deirdre. I was convinced that a very special Vehicle sped past us on their way back to base and I tried to catch up with them, much to the consternation of my passengers who may not be used to Kerry drivers, anyway that other car remains a mystery!! By a strange co incidence I think I also met a special vehicle near Stirling in 2007 on the way home from a gig in Perth, but that may be my memory playing tricks on me now!
Glasgow Concert Hall gig
So the final gig of the Scottish tour was the Concert Hall, a very formal hall and not my favourite venue, I think it’s hard to engage with the gig there. Perhaps to acknowledge the international 4711er gaggle that had assembled to follow the tour we were invited to the sound - check. It was indeed a privilege to see the “men at work “in that situation. Off we went about 6.30 pm to return at 7.30 or so for the final gig, it turned out to be my favourite gig ever in that Hall, they were both up for it and it seems that Hamish Imlach’s family were there. Primula was at the 4 Scottish gigs, Jan was at three and was in Concert Hall with 2 friends, and Steph and Susie were also at some of the gigs. This gig started with Allende and included Cry Like A Man, Smoke & Strong Whiskey, No Time for Love,, the final quarter of the gig was a great send off and epitomised the range of the whole tour, Companeros, Black is the Colour, North & South, Cliffs of Dooneen, Lisdoon, Sonny’s Dream and the last song of the tour Nancy Spain. Two hours non stop singing of 27 songs and buckets of energy & emotion! Then off we went into the night air yet again and a few drinks, and seeing it was the last night, a trip to the chipper, no deep fried Mars bars but there was some late night haggis!!
These Scottish audiences really love them, of course there are lots of Irish connections, any mention of Donegal or Derry or Packie Bonner gets them going, not to mention any Northern Irish reference. However these two musicians also have the ability to connect with all lovers of good music, this was very evident on Remembrance Sunday in Stirling, unlike other venues there were no GAA county jerseys in evidence, no obvious Irish community there and yet there was a very strong connection to the songs.
In all six gigs there were over 170 individual songs, covering every known emotion from hilarity to sadness from pathos to empathy and many nuances between. There were dedications to people not present, in the Glasgow Concert Hall City of Chicago was dedicated to the memory of Collette Boyle who had a ticket for the gig but didn’t make it, also that night a request for Steve Biko that was forgotten in Barrowlands in the hopes that that guy was present!! In Stirling a request for Sally from California who was sitting in the front row.
So now it’s nearly time to face into Vicar St and all that 2013 promises, new line ups & old line ups & new halls & familiar venues. Let the music keep our spirits high!!
Thanks to Christy and Declan for the music and to all the crew for their great welcome always and for reaching out to the 4711ers in so many ways. Mile, mile buiochas , beir bua agus beannacht.
Hilary Scanlan 1/12/12