Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Christy Moore at the Barbican

On Easter Monday London’s futuristic Barbican Centre played host to one of folk music’s great survivors. Christy Moore accompanied by long term collaborator Declan Sinnott played to a full house in a venue more used to hosting opera singers and orchestras. Armed only with a couple of guitars each and the occasional beat of the bodhran the duo energetically ploughed their way through the back catalogue of old favourites. There was even a bit of a capella thrown in for good measure.
A massive cheer went up as a short, beefy bald-headed stocky figure came on stage. Come to think of it, a physique not unlike a certain other veteran musician who also has a tendency to be grumpy and has been known in the past to be fond of the bottle. No, unfortunately Van the Man wasn’t there, but he did get a mention in Lisdoonvarna, the song everyone had been waiting for all night. The crowd was also treated to impromptu rendition of Belle of Belfast City the song made famous by Van and the Chieftains in the middle of Lisdoonvarna.

Unlike Christy, Van isn’t really one for interactive banter with the audience. When I saw him live at Belfast’s Botanic Gardens back in 1998 he put on a reasonably decent show – having come on after Bob Dylan you’d have to make the effort - but there was no Brown-eyed Girl, Gloria or Bright side of the Road. I felt like asking for a refund.

Christy, on the other hand didn’t disappoint. Urging the audience to shout out requests, only to follow with a different song went down a treat. The proceedings had appropriately enough kicked off with Missing You, a lament for the down-and-out economic migrant in London. The melancholy theme continued with North and South of the River and City of Chicago, before they gave way to the more light-hearted comic songs like Don’t forget your shovel and the inimitable Lisdoonvarna. And they managed to fit Nancy Spain in somewhere along the line.

In my review of the Pogues gig back in December (see archive) before the Dreaming Armadillo had the massive readership that it now enjoys (LOL!), I expressed disappointment at their failure to play A Pair of Brown Eyes. Christy Moore must have been reading this as he obliged with his own fitting cover version!

It’s no big secret that Moore, in political terms leans very much towards the left. This didn’t go unnoticed in the songs. There was his famous version of Ewan McColl’s Compañeros paying tribute to Che Guevara and the Cuban revolutionaries, Viva La Quinta Brigada, the anti-fascist rant on the Spanish Civil War plus a few subtle criticisms of US foreign policy. Thankfully, however this was all contained within the songs and he didn’t revert to any Bono-style preaching, preferring to play for laughs between each number.

Predictably, enough Ride On featured as the finale after the audience was milked for all it was worth to call for an encore. With the entire crowd singing harmoniously in unison it was certainly one to remember.


Lorainne said...

Has anyone else ever thought that the Christy Moore song Ride On seems to be about romantic love for a horse rather than a woman???!!! The line 'run your claw along my gut one last time' seems a bit of an odd thing for someone to sing to his girlfriend. Any explanations welcome.

Apart from this small and rather warped thought I like most of his stuff, especially the melancholy tracks like Nancy Spain, Burning Times and City of Chicago.

Caroline said...

I'll not say much since I can't stand Christy Moore. He writes some great songs but I'd much rather hear somebody else sing them. It's all just a matter of taste! Can't take more than three or four chords of Luka Bloom either. Having said that... I couldn't stomach porridge most of my life until the last decade or so. Maybe I'll acquire a taste for them just like porridge.

Certainly sounds like you had an enjoyable evening Ciaran.

CW said...

1. Lorrane, I'd rather not think about it.

2. Caroline, when you say porridge, I take it you're referring to the oatmeal-based cereal and not the classic 1970s prison sitcom starring the late great Ronnie Barker? I like both kinds, although maybe they are both acquired tastes.

Anonymous said...

Ciaran - (Lorainne again)- re your first point - I think you should think about it. Not only is that kind of thing against the law (not to mention animal rights) but it also indicates something very worrying about Christy Moores sexuality. Sorry, I am lowering the tone of your blogspot - if you wish to delete this comment I will understand (although will naturally consider it a crime against free speech).

CW said...

Lorraine, in the interests of freedom of expression I won't delete your comment, but again I'd rather not think about it. In any case horses don't have claws, so your reasoning doesn't really fit in.

Caroline said...

Sorry, I meant porridge oats. How could anyone dislike anything that Ronnie Barker did?

I know it was confusing to compare a dislike for a musician with a plate of steaming oats but it was the first thing that came to mind...

Lorainne said...

Ciaran - perhaps you are right (although I do think the lyrics are very odd and would like to know what they are about) but I will shut up on this point now.

Caroline, who do you think would be better at singing Christy Moores songs?? Do you think they should be sung by someone more glamorous or do you just dislike his voice?? Porridge is very good for you by the way and is OK with lots of honey in it (although probably has a million calories....)

Caroline said...

Caroline, who do you think would be better at singing Christy Moores songs??

Anyone at all... I dont like his voice.

Neither do I like sweet porridge :)
Has to be slightly salty.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't anyone know that it is actually based on an old irish folk lore tale from years ago? The one where they are in the land of eternal youth, and the guy decides he has to go back to see his family, she tells him if he falls off the horse he will age immediately and never be able to return. He was perceived as greatness, returned to see no one he knew or loved was any longer th ere, and when he told people who he was they laughed so he tried to prove it by lifting a rock, falls from the horse, and dies... I forget the name of the story but that's what it's based about, hence the ride on, see you, i could never go with you no matter how i wanted to. As his lady friend was the Princess of this mythical place.

CW said...

Thanks for clearing this up Anonymous. I assume you're referring to Oísín in Tir na nÓg, the land of eternal youth - I had no idea the song was about this, but reflecting on the lyricsm this certainly makes sense now.