Tuesday 29th August 2006
Reviewed by Gerry Quinn
Outside on the strip a handful of expectants were gearing up for Lisdoonvarna’s semi-surreal, annual month long matchmaking experience. But to be honest the only show in town was in The Hall at the Royal Spa Hotel on the main street. Christy Moore – he who sweats for Ireland, opted to do a pair of low-key, entirely solo gigs in the small ballroom of The Royal Spa Hotel – an exercise he hadn’t undertaken in nine years. Romantic hopefuls of a different category and disposition furtively acquired tickets in order to bear witness at the altar of an Irish folk-singing icon. Of late, a Planxty reunion and a peerless association with guitarist Declan Sinnott have been the Kildare man’s primary focus for live performance. Now at last he was ready to take the bull by the ‘liathroidi’ and go it alone. Not since 1997 at the Abbey in Chicago, had he embarked on a solo run and those who begged borrowed or stole to be present in the Clare village, flapped in anxious anticipation of a rare and privileged indulgence. Though nervous for themselves they were nervous for Christy too.
Apparently the first show on Monday night steadied those understandable nerves and when the lights went down in the intimate venue at 8.35pm on Tuesday, a flock of collywobbles and butterflies were reported to have soared over the nearby Cliffs of Moher, departing the Spa town in search of some other unsuspecting or more deserving victims. ’16 Fishermen Raving’ was the bard’s opening selection, launching an unprecedented thirty-five song set. For two hours and twenty minutes Moore poured his heat out and then some, dealing with subjects as diverse as, the murder of Victor Jara, the Chilean singer who died for democracy, – the struggle to preserve the natural beauty and spiritual essence of the Burren mountain, Mullaghmore – in addition to a poignant and tragic tale of two drowned fishermen brothers, the Conneelys from the Aran islands.
Exceptional moments in an artist’s career can oft times be founded on misty eyed hindsight and sentimentality, but on Tuesday night Moore’s performance was definitely as good and probably better than any, this writer has witnessed by him over the last thirty years. I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing the many guises and incarnations he has assumed in that period, and though several are memorable, none touched and engaged to the extent that this one did. A resonant political and social conscience inhabits songs rich in history, humour and pathos and the humility that Christy exudes when delivering such material was never as palpable. The author Franklin P. Jones once said, “originality is the art of concealing your source”, but it’s obvious that he never encountered Christy Moore. For the duration, the singer with the anarchic and indomitable spirit paid homage to the composition qualities of writers such as John Spillane, Wally Page, Woody Guthrie, Colm Gallagher, Richard Thompson and Bobby Sands. His mastery of interpreting a worthy song, regardless of origin is without peer. Christy infuses a unique originality on his chosen material, that is grounded in a deep conviction that the song and its meaning is paramount. However he went to great lengths to eulogize and credit the authors. His own songs are equally profound and insightful. ‘The Middle of The Island’, a tender tribute to teenager Anne Lovett who died tragically following childbirth and ‘They Never Came Home’ his statement on the Stardust fire tragedy, were balanced perfectly with the ubiquitous ‘Don’t Forget Your Shovel’, a sardonic and jovial recollection of his experiences on the building sites of England during the sixties. Nobody does pain and humour in tandem as well as Christy Moore. This show was an emotional voyage that massaged the senses, providing thought provoking moments with passages of hilarity and sheer joy.
An unaccompanied rendition of ‘The Well Below The Valley’ generated hair raising and goose bump moments, while Woody Guthrie’s tale of ‘Sacco and Vanzetti’ lifted and regaled an assiduous and partisan audience. Never once throughout a superb and inspired recital did its magical intensity dip or wane. On the contrary, the time elapsed seemed brief and fleeting, as a deep trawl through an extensive back catalogue unearthed some forgotten gems and reinvigorated favourites. Though well worn and proverbial, Christy’s self penned ditty ‘Lisdoonvarna’, was never more appropriate as when used to bring the curtain down on what has to be a contender for one of Moore’s finest and most impressive live performances, over a lengthy and ever evolving career.