2nd-13th January 2007
Reviewed by Maryline
Christy Moore and Declan Sinnott –
2 to 13 January 2007
02/01/07, The First Time Ever I Saw…
No matter how many times I’ve tried, I have never succeeded in putting words to this “first ever” Christy gig. It was a memorable dream-come-true night, all I can remember of it now is a stiffness in the neck due to the nerves (and maybe the Vicar Street unfriendly stools?) and a swollen hand due to the applause. A wonderful feeling to be (at last) at the right place at the right time with the right people (Fair play to Marion and Brian) invaded me at 8.15 pm sharp when both performers walked on stage. They did not give the impression they had to find their way nor settle in a bit before entering the gig in full flight: the crowd was ready for it from the first song and time just stopped from the first notes of the opening “One last cold kiss”. After a welcoming “Here we go again, another year…bloody business starts all over again…” Christy looked very relaxed and enjoying himself like only someone with full master of his skill can afford to. As for Declan, relax must be his middle name although I suspect it is only a disguise in which he wraps his tremendous focus, empathy and talent.
“North and South” is a brilliant song to settle both the voice and the instruments when opening a gig. It is such a polished song, vocally requiring, with a large range of emotions and there’s just no turning back after such a statement. It also allows Declan to shine every time.
From these two on, each and every song was introduced most appropriately: there are many ways of “making a song its own” but there is no way like Christy’s way. When working on a song, the man put an awful amount of energy in sculpturing its shape until it fits his sound, his vernacular and his playing. But the final touch lays in the spoken introductions: All in one, it allows him to pay heartfelt tributes to the original writers, shed a light on the historical background of the song, paint the picture for you and link it to his own personal and professional path, so that it all makes sense. The crowd made it very easy to go from Jack Doyle to Hiroshima and the gentle requests sounded more like “mind-readers” as performers and public were obviously embarked on the same journey of songs celebration.
A full report of the last GAA season for a loud Leinster man led us to a memorable “Joxer”: first time I don’t hear the dogs howling at the moon, even Christy was surprised (???). Then “Lawless” for Mick Curry present in the room, and “Nancy Spain” for Barney Rush also present, what a treat for all involved! “A stitch in time” is a song that needs preparation, so it came right after Declan’s solo, as it will almost every night. That way, Christy has a few minutes to concentrate, lights down on him, before delivering this beautiful a-capella piece. I have never thought of “A stitch in time” as a funny song – At all. Well… maybe I laughed at the colander point once or twice… But the song does create a wide range of perception among people. Makes me think of this movie I bought in Dublin, “Adam and Paul”, labelled on the DVD as “trouser-soaking funny… side-splitting” (I swear!) while it is one of the saddest and most heartbreaking film I’ve ever seen.
Later on, the highlight of my night came “riding ‘cross the badland lying to the North of New Mexico”, when the old Planxty song got its first airing with a lovely dedication and a warm welcome for this listener.
The Liberty Belles in the Vicar Street neighbourhood (first or second right then on the left side) is a great pub to come back to earth. Mainly locals, not too strict on closing time, and no condescending look upon this non-beer drinker. As we made our entrance, the young Irish barman spotted the tickets in our hands and asked: “Christy Moore? Was he good?” As he was getting no answer, he looked up at us, laughed at our speechless faces and answered to himself before we could mumble a word “Ok… so he was brilliant!”
03/01/07, You’re Welcome, Welcome Everyone… Have You Any Auld Autographs Or Tapes ?
This will remain as a special night for various and I think it is better to leave each and everyone with his own private memory of it. As far as songs and vibe were concerned, a detailed and heartfelt review written by Adam from Wicklow can be read on Christy’s web site and gives a perfectly spot-on insight.
This is the night when I understand what people meant when they said that Christy’s gigs are never the same, and not only because of the songs. From this night I was able to confront proudly those you said to me “Are you REALLY going to SIX gigs?!?” and answer them condescendingly “if you only knew…”. 10 nights, more than 20 hours on stage, 66 different songs sung 269 times, and you still cry for more… just one more please…
I felt the men on stage had to find their way into the night during the first songs, unlike the night before. After a few pieces without much talking, Krishna was surprisingly invoked during “The City of Chicago”, which raised the few first laughs of the night and the banter really began with the picture of Christy and Declan losing their way into the parking site of the Dundrum Shopping Center as an introduction to “Peace in the Valley” – hilarious and so witty. From then on and in spite of being repeatedly unsettled by a heavy heckler who kept on shouting the name of one of the “Colombia Three”, Christy and Decky found their way into an eclectic set.
I don’t know why I have always thought that “Burning Times” must be a very hard song to perform live. I personally feel the powerful and definite version in the last album owes a lot to the haunting back vocals of Mandy Murphy and Mary Greene and it takes all the talent of Declan Sinnott to recreate this atmosphere live. “Compañeros” was the occasion to recommend a major movie recently remastered by Martin Scorsese – “I Am Cuba”- about the historical background which led “La Isla” to the Castro revolution.
Two consecutive “senior moments” during “Hattie Carroll” and “16 fishermen raving” made Christy look for refuge into “one I know…”, and that one was “the shovel”, with a brilliant hilarious version that had us all in bits. And then when we least expected it, at the peak of our laughs, magic again, emotion… the first notes of “Minds locked shut”… but no, we’re back to “the Shovel” again. At this stage, “some” may have doubted Christy was able to name the names correctly, but of course he drove us to remember Jackie Duddy, Willie Nash, Gerry Donaghy, Willy McKinney, Gerard McKinney, Jim Wray, Johnny Johnston, Barney McGuigan, Paddy Doherty, Kevin McIlhenny, Jon Young, Mickey Kelly, Hugh Gilmore and Michael McDaid without a blink and it was the highlight of the night for me.
The loveliest thing happened next, when Christy surprisingly called out Brian from Holland and asked him “give me a request”. At this point I feared that Brian’s heart was going to jump out of his chest to fall upon our table or worse, on my knees… Everybody began to shout requests but Christy firmly insisted for Brian to speak out and make his own wish. Brian had to quickly pick one of his favorites which had not been played already and Christy agreed to “Magdalene Laundries” not without before paying tribute to the 4711ers present in the room, managing to link Holland, Chile and Portlaoise in the salute. Declan’s guitar left us shivering once more… The night ended with a great and collective rendition of “Lisdoonvarna” linked with an inspired “Rory”.
“What happened next is history, brought tears to many eyes, ah that day will be the highlight of many people’s lives” … (you fill up the blanks my friends, I’ll just say Christy looked as genuinely happy to meet us as us to meet him, more energetic than all of us together and generous beyond words with his time and attentions)
06/01/07, Such A Crowd I’ve Never Seen Before…
The 6th of January gig was another story altogether: Saturday crowd atmosphere, groups of buddies “heavily” prepared with all sorts of beverage. Some of our neighbours were finding the tables too small to hold their merchandise… The atmosphere was electric, very different from the two previous nights, “even slightly dangerous at times” in Christy’s words.
It is amazing to witness how everything changes in Christy according to the vibe, his vocabulary, the way he speaks and grins while decisions have to be taken in split seconds to maintain “control”. Amidst the banter and the loudly shouted requests (“Cabaret” was shouted approximately 25 times) our man did succeed to lead the gig where he wanted it to go. Two songs came as big surprises. When Christy began introducing the first one as a song he received on a cassette 20 or 25 years ago with no name on it to trace the author, I jumped on my setlist notebook and over-confidently began to scribble “ordinary m…” but stopped as he said that never once before this night he had been requested to sing it. My heart almost stopped when a heartfelt rendition of “Away Away You Broken Heart You” stilled the night and left the noisy crowd in awe.
“It’s all your fault” Declan would later say to me, half-laughing half-serious.
A second highlight was still to come though, as Christy announced the first airing of a new song and asked us to “bear with us if we make a mess of it”. “Does this train stop at Merseyside?” is a song by Ian Prowse, of the band Amsterdam, from Liverpool. Nothing did I know about this song, nor about the band, but it struck such a chord that the melody and part of the words haunted me all night and when I awoke I could swear I knew the song for ages. Beautiful strumming by Christy, inspired Declan, a real gem. It was going to be repeated every night from then, with different shapes, at times with duet vocals at the end between Christy and Declan, like answering themselves (my personal favorite version). I was later to discover how thrilled and overjoyed Amsterdam band and Amsterdam’s fans are by Christy’s rendition. Here’s an excerpt of Ian Prowse’s internet diary:
“Then a few days before Christmas I learned that none other than the very wonderful Irish legend Christy Moore is a huge fan of ‘Does this train stop on Merseyside?’ and that he plans to do a version. I have to tell you I’m very, very touched by this. Some strange synchronicity is at play here to do with my trip to NYC, and me recently discovering his beautiful music. Now this. I’d tell ya about it but you’d all think I was fucking crackers.
(…) I’m seen most days sitting at the back of the studio reading a book the lovely Christy Moore sent me for my birthday, it’s a fine book about song, by Christy himself…..it goes hand in hand with the music we are making down here and in some ways is not unlike a spiritual guidebook for these sessions.”
For those who want to decrypt the meaning of the song, there’s a great clip here:
(But be warned, don’t look at it if you want to keep your own imagery intact)
When Christy dedicated Arlo Guthrie’s song “Victor Jara” to the passing of Pinochet, a very large fellow behind me shouted from the heart “Yeah… fock him !” with the thickest accent and made my night, together with the warm welcome Christy himself gave me from the stage. I’m not sure how many singers still sing about him 23 years after his murder but I’d swear I saw Victor himself later at night down the Liffey, his arm around Matty’s shoulders keeping him away from the cold: both were raising their glasses towards Thomas Street.
07/01/07, I Dreamt a Dream The Other Night…
On Sunday 7th I had the strangest dream: I was alone in an empty Vicar Street with a cuppa tea in hand. On the stage Christy was rehearsing the “Ludlow Massacre” while Declan was making all sorts of heaven noises with all sorts of heaven guitars: a bit of “Continental Ceili” was started then dropped among laughter and one or two other rare ballads were caressed while the crew was busy with the boards. Sit by my side, Paddy Doherty was gently testing me (“Do you know this song?”) Then the dream went on as I was literally being fed by Mick (“You HAVE to taste that cake, Paddy’s sister sent it from Lisdoonvarna !”) and gently pushed towards a round table for a relaxed chat. Thank God it was only a dream, for nervousness made me forget all the clever conversation rules… I ended up instead comparing my Ipod with Declan’s and woke up just in time for the gig. Fair play to all.
Declan Sinnott : His Guitar Plays And Wails And Screams The Blues…
It is clear now that the people who come to a gig come to a Christy Moore AND Declan Sinnott gig. The good doctor receives his good and deserved share of the roars, applause and cheers. Shouts like “Good Man Declan!” or “Come On Decky!” are not uncommon at the end of the songs. His talent is commented before and after gig. He brings his recognizable sound to every song he touches and more than once you find yourself with your eyes glued to his hands and completely transported out of the room. The man could make you beg on your knees for the “Ride On” middle riff or the “Black is the colour” solo. Ears to the ground, Declan also likes to give quick glances and spot around the first rows tables from time to time… maybe to check his impact. He also has a fine sense of humour and the unique ability to make you believe that everything happens naturally and easily.
I later had confirmation that both performers happen to have completely different perceptions of the gigs, and are affected differently by the vibes emanating from the public. Later in the week, when some drunk heckler made the night difficult for Christy, Declan declared himself totally unaffected by it and enjoyed the buzz immensely.
During this marathon, the good Doctor Vibes gifted us with three different solo songs: “Corrina Corrina” (definite version superior to Dylan’s own in my humble opinion), “Saint-Louis Blues” (his voice is so suited for the blues, I wish he’d make an album of covers of Mississippi John Hurt songs someday…) and a wonderful Lead Belly song “On a Monday”, nicknamed “Yellow Woman” by Christy due to a line in it. Sure this man does not pick his songs from the next-door supermarket!
Gathered round them, they have their own crew…
“Git’s list” in one hand, a torch in the other, road manager Mick Devine, also known as “Divine Mick”, is a pillar, apart from being one of the most handsome and lovely men you’d ever meet. Not only does he bring his essential and reliable presence everywhere front and backstage, he also occasionally minds and feeds the wee listeners and treat them as if they were the most important people in the world! The image of Mick pouring milk in my cuppa tea and stirring it for me will remain as one of my most delicate memories.
Watching John Meade, chatting with Dickon from Sligo and seeing Geoff Ryan and Davey Meade at work helps you understand better how and why everything happens the way it does: deeply focused on their own bit yet connected as one team and concerned with each other, these guys are beyond professionalism and must be the envy of every artist in the country.
12/01/07 : Lose Yourself In The Darkest Night…
Up to this day there is no news of a recording for the Friday 12th gig which was very special, intense and once again different: fortunately the public was up for the mood of the night, very respectful and attentive listeners.
One does not open a gig with “The Ballad of Little Musgrave” without a reason: from the moment he walked on stage, Christy looked extremely focused and immersed in deep thoughts. I think at one point he mentioned that he was a bit shaky that night for some reason. There was a certain sadness on the air, not much was said nor introduced, as if singing had surrended to all other means of communication. The voice was deeper and softer than ever. What the man had on his mind this night is not of our business but it certainly drove him into dark places and deep memories. Many people were remembered, birthdays were linked with passings, the ghosts of Musgrave, Hattie, Matty, Sacco, Vanzetti, of the 48 children, Mickey-Mickey, Victor, Steve Biko all mingled and overcrowded the stage as the night passed by. Maybe it all made sense when “The Two Conneeleys” was sung or better said “exorcised”: no introduction was needed, as the drama of various sailors missing at sea off Wexford shores had been on the news all day. It felt like both the performers and the public were longing for the song to act as a healing prayer.
Then “Barrowlands” hit me in the heart this time (the very drunk heckler in the blue shirt had really spoiled it the first time) Later, a heartfelt rendition of “Faithful Departed” was dedicated to his wife Val while “Joxer” certainly made Gary from Inchicore’s night and “Burning Times” was softly sung for Nicky and Padraic.
Since the release of the Point 2006 DVD and Declan’s stormer rendition of “No Time for Love” (see Sound Check section) I had hoped to presence the Doctor live at work on this one someday. So when Christy generously gave me the opportunity to “make a list, do make a list”, I took my chance with it. I love linking songs and for me this one goes hand in hand with a ballad from my friend Luis Le Bert of the former Chilean group Santiago del Nuevo Extremo which goes “Santiago my city, I want to see you in love but they stole the night from you…” While Declan went on fire during his solo, I could not help thinking that no matter how much you request a song for yourself, it’s really the sharing that makes it in the end: I was so glad I had come with Kieran that night, sure the song transported him a few years back!
It was a brilliant gig from beginning to end, sadness was finally defeated through the power of songs and it was amazing to witness how the people left with renewed energy (the ladies room is a great place to listen and enjoy after-gig comments). Although I had the awkward feeling that we had sucked this energy too deep out of Christy’s mind and left him emotionally exhausted.
13/01/07 : The Time Has Come To Part…
The final night of Saturday 13th would fortunately prove me wrong: a magnificent closing night with a very uplifted and relaxed Christy, obviously boosted by the loving presence of his family gathered upstairs. Opening with a powerful “Biko Drum” which set a lively pace on the night, it went on with “Merseyside” which had gradually made its way up the set list since its first airing three gigs before, consolidating itself as a full new member of the family of songs. Then two slow ones, but who cared? Nobody was willing to fall asleep as the magic of special places was honoured through the great John Spillane’s “Magic Nights” and Wally Page/Christy’s “Barrowlands”, two pieces which certainly go well together.
When Christy invites you to sing along so early in the night you certainly jump on the occasion: now when the song is “City of Chicago” and Luka Bloom is in the audience it certainly makes the occasion quite special. After a big welcome roar for him, we did our best to honour Luka, Tom and Chicago, in that order…
There’s this thing about the “City of Chicago”: no matter how hard you try, when Christy sings it you can’t help thinking of Luka and how much you would love to see him live. Then you hear a recording of one of Luka’s gigs and the image of Christy stands strong… damn it, why don’t they ALWAYS sing that song together? Last July, on stage in Holland, Luka told this story of him writing the song in about 20 minutes in 1984 and thinking it was no good (“this is an Irish catholic thing, if there’s no pain involved, it can’t have any value”). Until Christy heard him sing it in the kitchen and went “I’ll have that one please!” …
The imagery of Christy and Declan standing in the wing at the London Fleadh (pronounce as you want, anyway you’ll be laughed at…) scribbling down the words and chords of “The Lonesome death of Hattie Carroll” is always a good introduction, even if the reality must have been slightly different. This time Christy added that he was so close to Bob Dylan that “you could almost touch him… but you would not…” and everybody laughed. “Cry like a man” always tends to still a noisy crowd. Then up Memory Lane again, back to the Baggot Inn (“Faithful Departed”) and Carnsore (“Hiroshima”) before Declan blessed us with his Yellow Women again. Lots of requests were repeatedly shouted and subsequently cancelled out as Christy knew exactly where he wanted to go: “The two Conneeleys” echoed a prayer which had begun the day before, then “Beeswings”, hand on heart, was dedicated to Dame Valerie, Juno and the family. The room temporarily converted itself in a joyful chaos as the banter between a Laois supporter and Christy set the people on fire but everyone agreed and cheered at “Joxer”.
Then Christy agreed for the “longest medley in history” and obliged with so many different requests from so many different “listeners”, from “Brigada” to “Black is the Colour”. Even Declan made his call and that is how “Billy Grey” got its second airing of the year. At this precise moment I sadly felt the circle which had begun two weeks before with the same song was reaching its closing time as far as I was concerned. Nevertheless, our magicians had more surprises in their hats. To my right, a woman captured Christy’s attention: while everyone else were shouting, nobody but Christy heard she was longing for a song whose only words she remembered were “something green among the bushes”. All in a split second you could see Christy evaluate the situation, make up his mind, then say “Ok, Ok” and turn to John Meade for his bodhrán. What a cherry on top of the icecream! Declan respectfully brought a new sound to the “Well below the Valley” with a very discreet and appropriate background note. What a way to finish and thank their listeners while they were the ones to be thanked. Class – full stop.
Time “between gigs” : I Met A Group Of Creatures With The Strangest Looking Features
Technology is a great thing: thanks to previous arrangements and subsequent messages left in the guestbook, I was able to put faces on various usual 4711ers suspects: there are no words to describe their generosity and the beauty of their heart. I met with Brian from Holland on the 2nd of January and we spent most of the days of the first week together: by the time he left, he had become one of my dearest friends. John B. from Spink rushed several times between work and family to spend quality time with us. Lar, from The Rock via Graceland, proved to be a most gracious and generous host: I am forever in debt with him for providing me with the only story that would make some sense to my teenage boys back home: a picture of Bono’s house taken from the beach, at least something they could relate to! Kieran K. is one of a kind, he recognized in me a genuine and true listener and honoured me by welcoming me into his world and his garden shed. Jurgens from Germany played a key role and I spent my last day in Ireland walking up and down the hills of Howth with his wife Ruth: she is a woman as beautiful inside as outside, and I am proud to call her my friend. Presents were exchanged, emails were scribbled down and invitations were extended. Of course I could not even have began to think of this crazy trip if not for my dearest friends Frédérique and family, Marion Moran and Aggie who accomodated their under-roof office or living-room with a spare bed for me without a blink and patiently bear with my schedule. Nor could I have left my “daily sustain” behind if not for my best friend Michèle who took care of the bookshop and of everything “earthly” in Santiago: Ride On Michèle wherever the wind carries you from now on, I already miss you so much!… I love you all girls to pieces !
Anecdotes : I Know This Takes Believing …
My two weeks in the holy ground were not exempt of anecdotes:
I’ll never forget how I found the nerve to sing “Alfonsina y el mar” in Spanish in front of the talented people of the Goilín Club one “free” Friday, nor my astonishment when I realized that the beautiful woman in front of us was no less than Niamh Parsons (a few months before, I had asked Brian who he would love to hear apart from Christy: he had answered “Niamh Parsons”, and there she was with us at the Goilín Club…)
I’ll never forget my one night in Doolin and how, determined to spend the evening in O’Connors in spite of the hard rain and terrible storm, I was defeated at the last minute by an unexpected and unbeatable adverse elements: the darkest night I had ever experienced! It was SO black outside the guesthouse that I could never find the gate outside, not to mention walk the muddy path downhill… I crawled back to my room and ended up watching TG4 in Gaelic with a cup of minute-made noodles.
One for the road: as I walked “home” at night after the first gig, I approached an old man who was having a smoke under the porch of Tom Mayle’s Pub to ask my way to Drumcondra. I didn’t get clearly every word of his answer but I did pick the name “Bertie” somewhere in the sentence. As I had been repeatedly told that I was staying near to the Taoiseach’s house I thought the old man was confirming that this was the area I was looking for, so I innocently answered “yes”, waiting for more indications. Our man suddenly seemed to awake from his smoke and his eyes sparkled with excitement: “So that’s true? There’s a party at Bertie’s house? Is that were you’re going Love ?” “No… No…” was my confused answer, then I lost myself into more confused explanations still and he looked relieved. Phew! National scandal was avoided, but I laughed my way home imagining the yellow press titles “Foreign woman in her forties seeking Bertie’s house on her own at 1 am in the morning”…
I tell you – Christy’s gigs can lead you into strange situations…