Reviewed by Pat Ryan
The clock went off at 5:15 and i was on the road from Stratford on Slaney to the Barrowlands at 5:40.
I had been looking forward to this gig for a long time. I spoke to Christy about it many times and at the Kilkenny gig I spoke with Paddy and he said ” Come over to Glasgow Pat. I can’t describe it but you will not have seen anything like it before”. So I was off to Glasgow.
I got the 7:50 flight to Prestwick and there were 2 lads in the seats behind me talking music. They were of my vintage and were well travelled music fans. They were on the way to The Barras as well. The flight was full with quite a few Celts on board for the away game to Hamilton the next day. Despite the early hour there was a great buzz on the plane – everyone seemed to be talking about their plans for the weekend.
I arrived in Prestwick and got the train into Glasgow Central. I was in the station 3 weeks previously and had a cup of tea there. The pidgeons with their mangled little legs came up right up and ate crumbs out of my palm. ( A regular little St. Francis !!!). Anyway, I left the station and headed for the hotel. I knew it was Menzies in Washington Street but that was as much as I knew. I walked down Argyle Street and went into the Celtic shop. It was about 10 in the morning and I had a look around the store. I like memorabilia so I passed a little time in there. I asked the lad working there for directions and he googled the hotel and gave me directions. I had decided to walk as much as possible on this trip so that i could get a feel for the city. So off I went with me bag on me back. On the way Eric from Coatbridge rang me and we arranged to meet the next day. More of that later.
I arrived into the lobby of the hotel about 11 and went to reception. I was way too early for check-in but I signed in and left my bag with Brian. I asked Brian directions for a good breakfast – Moores at the Glasgow Central bridge: I asked him how to get to Andrews Square and he guided me there. I went for breakfast and it was pretty busy with blue and green supporters lapping up the fried delights and washing them down with pints of beer and some , like myself even had tea with their toast. As the world outside was trudging through the Glasgow rain I saw the 3 young lads from Ireland having a few drinks and taking in the freedom of a weekend away with all its potential. There was the group of long time Celt supporters arriving with new bloods and meeting up with friends of long standing. The strong handshakes of earned respect and the smile that said it good to see you.
I headed out to find Andrews Square based on Brian’s directions. I got as far as the clock in Trongate and could not find what I was looking for. I asked a woman and she said it’s not around here. I headed back towards the city centre and stood in under the canopy of M&S. I looked at a tourist map I had but no luck. I conceded after about 10 minutes and asked a man standing near me if he knew where the street is I was looking for. He pointed me confidently back towards my hotel. I went back that way in the hope of tying in with friends. As I neared the hotel again I looked at a map on a bus shelter – There it was – Andrew Square just off the Saltmarket in Trongate!!
I arrived back to the hotel lobby about 1PM. When i walked in I saw Andy and he leapt up to say hello and asked me to join him and his two buddies Tom and Bobby. They were well into the second day of slagging that only good friends can keep up and get away with. Tea arrived and i was in the middle of it straight away. I had met Tom on a couple of occasions previously and I met Bobby twice in Clonakilty but did not know him that well. The hour or more I spent with the lads though gave me an insight into a good friendship and I was glad of the company. Sound men all three. I have known Andy for quite a few years but we never spent much time together. Tom and Bobby headed off to their rooms and myself and Andy had a great conversation. I got to know him and he me and I think we forged a new friendship. It was refreshing in the honest way that life’s battering sometimes allows. I checked in then and went up to my room to lie down for a while but that wasn’t possible because when I’m in a different place I feel that time spent lying down is time wasted when I could be out getting to know the area. However, I turned on the telly and there was a documentary on about Sevvy Ballesteros and his recovery from brain surgery. It was fascinating listening to him speak about how grateful and lucky he is to be alive and how his ambition is to play in The Open again is St. Andrews. He has set up a foundation to help others in a similar situation and he is smiling. True humility.
About 4 I headed off for Barrowlands with a detour planned to find the Rooms in Andrew Square. Like all good journeys I needed to march on a full stomach so McDonalds was my first stop. I finished there and headed towards Trongate again and saw this great painting of John Lennon in a gallery window. I went in and it was full of great paintings by an artist whose name escapes me but whose paintings are really raw. The gallery owner is a man from Donegal and we spoke for a while. A very engaging man. I left him and turned right into the Saltmarket and left into Andrew Street. I found where I was looking for but it was closed. I know now where it is for the next time I’m over. I headed up for the Gallowgate and The Barras and in less than 10 minutes I was outside the great Ballroom. I took a few pictures and then headed into Bairds out of the pouring rain. I was due to meet Mick or Paddy at 5:30 at the door of Barrowlands. I went into the lounge side and it was throbbing with a group ripping it up with ballads and other folk songs. The crowd there were in great form. This was about 4:45. I went into the bar side of Bairds and ordered an Irn Bru and a bag of salt and vinegar. An oul boy came up to me and asked me the result of the game between Wolves and Villa. I told him it was a draw. He knew that already though i’m sure. Anyway at about 5:15 the band finished up with The Fields of Athenry and wished all well at the gig. Then they asked great crowd gathered to stand for the National Anthem – Amhran na Bhfiann !!
This was a first for me – at 5:15 in Glasgow on a Saturday afternoon standing to attention for the Irish National Anthem – Great stuff. I left Bairds and went to the ballroom door. Paddy was there waiting for the Troubadour and Mick. I said Howya Paddy. He wasn’t sure who I was. I told him and he said Jesus sorry Pat I was miles away. He brought me in and gave me the laminate and gave me a tour of the area and showed me to a seat at the back if I wanted to use it. I took the time to look around this old venue. The stage was set up with all the gear and the sound man arrived to prepare for the sound check The other long time crew were on stage making sure all was in place and as it should be. A vital cog.
It was empty other than that. I walked around the hall and took some pictures. The bar was closed in the hall. Christy and Mick arrived a short while after me and I was brought into the dressing room. Straight away Mick was playing the host and made me a cup of tea. There was an array of goodies lined up. Home made brown bread, white bread, cheeses, olives, thick cut slices of cooked ham and sponge cakes from a fan from the gig the night before. I dived in and made a doorstop of a ham sandwich. Wally had already arrived and done his sound check. Declan was just finished his and arrived in to get a bit to eat. I was chatting to Christy and just went in to say hello to Declan and pay my respects. I felt awkward and said a couple of things that were just off the mark – like suggesting a song and stating the obvious like you’ll miss him!! Declan on the other hand was gracious. I watched Christy doing his sound check and then Wally and Declan came up to go through the 3 songs they were doing together. They decided on Christy for Barrowlands, Wally for Smoke & Strong Whisky and Christy for Biko Drum. They were a bit concerned about how to come in on each other’s lead – they needn’t have worried. The 3 went back to the dressing room and sat together. They started to chat about songs and gigs and songs again and all the time strumming. I went into the kitchen area as I felt it was a place for just them. Val and Juno arrived in the meantime and the dressing room had a great atmosphere. There was a real feeling of goodwill.
They started to play some songs and laughed and played and it was like an Everly Brothers vibe coming from the music and singing. It was quite special.
The hall was filling rapidly and I took a seat at the back and watched the fans arrive. They were 4711ers and fans from all over. Val and Juno were already in their seats and I sat in with Tom. While we were waiting we had a great chat and it is amazing what people endure and accept with a humility that is almost unbearable – another sound man. Bobby was there with his son and Andy went out into the crowd. I was getting a bit anxious myself so me and my laminate went backstage and waited for the arrival of Christy and Declan. The build up was great and at about 8:05PM Mick’s torch went on and the lads came up the steps of the stage and the thunder was huge. They kicked off with North and South ( one of my favourites) and just built it from there. The crowd was amazing and to see them from where Christy sees them was awesome. A little bit of heckling went on and it was handled with years of experience. The crowd were alive to every song and when required you could hear a tear drop. At about 9:10 PM Wally was brought up. He was at the side like a prizefighter waiting to go on. He was on his toes and rarin’ to go. The crowd gave him a great welcome. They went straight into Barrowlands – the reaction was stunning. The crowd owned this. Then Wally sang Smoke and he just went into another level altogether – the crowd was in ecstasy and sang along to perfection. Biko Drum followed with Christy on fire and Declan’s guitar playing has no words to describe. To huge applause and cheering Wally left the stage and as he came down the steps Mick said to him “well?” and Wally’s reply was ” I love it, I just love this”. What a pleasure to see all this.
I could go through all the songs and tell you about each one but this was among the best gigs I have ever been to. It was over 2 hours and it will last forever. The atmosphere is very special and Christy rates this as one of his favourite places to play. I am a fan of Christy for over 36 years and he and Declan have a magic that is rare when they play together. Declan virtuoso playing is an untapped national treasure and we are lucky to have such a great musician.
After the gig I went in to the dressing room and had fish and chips with the whole gang. Great. I left the Barrowlands about 10:45 and got a cab back to the hotel. I sent texts thanking the people whio made this possible for me and about midnight got a call from Christy. We spoke for a few minutes and he thanked me for being there!!!!
I got up for breakfast and met Andy in the restaurant who invited me to join himself, Tom and Bobby. The slagging was good if a little quiter to allow for any delicate heads. The breakfasts were consumed with gusto though so they were ready to get the boat.They were great company and i was grateful for the time I spent with them.
Eric rang to say he would pick me up at noon. He and his wife Matty arrived and we went to the Banks Social Club to watch the Bhoys playing Hamilton. They went 2 -0 up and the was almost no great chat about the match but it was suddenly changed when Hamilton got a goal back.It was hell for leather and that was just in the Social club. We left there and went to John the plumber’s house. We had soup there and I was made feel completely at home like I had been calling for years. We went back to Eric’s then and watched the end of the united game. Eric has a grwat way about him and I felt relieved that I am on the right track after speaking and more importantly listening to him. He and Matty brought me for a lovely meal and dropped me back to Prestwick. They walked in with me and I feel I have really connected there. It’s a great relief for someone like me to be able to speak freely to a like mind. I am looking forward to them coming over to Ireland.
I got in home about 1:15 on Sunday night/Monday morning. I was delighted to be home with Geraldine, Sara and Charlie the dog. I was looking forward to telling them all about this great 2 days.