Hammersmith Apollo, Tuesday 30th October
Reviewed by Robin Denselow, The Guardian.
Most guitar-strumming singer-songwriters start solo then acquire a band, but Christy Moore turned the process on its head. He started out on the folk circuit in the 1960s and went on to work with Planxty and Moving Hearts, but now has only one other guitarist to help him, the sensitive Declan Sinnott.
He has acquired legendary status in Irish music, yet still acts as if he were playing in the intimate setting of a front room. His songs constantly change direction, from humour and whimsy to angry musical history lessons on Cuba, apartheid or the Irish contingent who fought against Franco with the International Brigade. It works because he is a fine storyteller with a glorious, soulful voice and the ability to make other people’s songs his own.
At Hammersmith, his carefully constructed set switched from Yellow Triangle, his thoughtfully chilling song about fascism, to Richard Thompson’s lyrical Beeswing, and then the emotional Missing You, on the loneliness of Irish migrant workers in London. His return here prompted both nostalgia and surprises, with reminiscences of performing at Ewan MacColl’s Singers Club bringing on a MacColl ballad, Sweet Thames, Flow Softly, and memories of the Watersons, followed by a bravely unaccompanied treatment of Mike Waterson’s A Stitch in Time. So it went on, with North and South of the River, the stirring, controversial song of reconciliation in Northern Ireland that he co-wrote with Bono and the Edge, followed by a version of the very funny, half-spoken and stomping Lisdoonvarna and the traditional Cliffs of Dooneen, surely one of the most exquisite of all Irish ballads. Christy Moore may be in his early 60s, but his potency is undiminished.