What a wonderful summer of concerts and festivals it has been. It started for me about four months ago when I saw the Unthanks in Bradford On Avon, then Madeleine Peyroux in Bath, just about everyone you can think of at Glastonbury Festival, Van Morrison at the Eden Project down in Cornwall and Brian Wilson at the Abbey and many others but Christy Moore’s concert at the Royal Festival Hall on Wednesday night was as good as or better than any of them. This is what happened.
|Me And Bill down by the river.|
It was a damp and dirty morning when I set off on the train from Westbury to Waterloo but by the time I got to London Storm Arleen had calmed down a bit and I had a nice stroll along the river and found my hotel just behind the Tate Modern. It was the LSE Bankside (£71.00 for a nice room and all you can eat for breakfast) As soon as I dumped my stuff off I headed back along the embankment and met my friends Jacky & Bill at the London Eye. It was great to see them again and we repaired to the Slug & Lettuce for a couple of drinks and a good chat. Then we wandered on to a restaurant called The Giraffe for a bite to eat. The service was quick and friendly, I opted for Moroccan tagine, I can’t remember what Jacky & Bill had but mine was nice with an amusing bottle of chardonnay as well. Time was getting on and we made our way to the Festival Hall. I looked in the bar for some internet buddies but couldn’t spot them but when we took our seats I did see Hilary from Kerry and had time for a quick hello before the show began.
Christy was accompanied as usual by Declan Sinnott on guitars and Jimmy Higgins on percussion and also someone who I hadn’t seen before who is Cathal Hayden from Pomoroy, County Tyrone on violin & banjo. I must say that he played some sweet music during the evening and is a great addition to Christy’s little band of companeros. The first song of the evening was Deportees. I don’t think I have heard Christy play this song live before but I enjoyed it. I first heard the song on a Joan Baez album many years ago. I wonder why Christy chose it as the opening song?. Maybe as a statement about the refugee and migrant crisis around the world at the moment. This was followed by the powerful North & South Of The River which I never tire of hearing. Then a song that I always have trouble spelling the name of which is Gortatagort. It is a great song written by John Spillane. Christy said that after the previous two nights playing in Watford & Worthing he was a bit freaked out by playing the Royal Festival Hall. I think he likes it here though, the acoustics are good in my opinion, compared to the Royal Albert. Then he sang the very moving Missing You which must have struck a chord with the many Irish members of the audience. This was followed by Ewan MacColl’s Go Move Shift which is another song very relevant to what is going on in the world today. Then we were treated to two beautiful songs from Christy’s recent album Lily. Firstly, Lightning, Bird, Wind, River Man followed by Mandolin Mountain. Lily is an album that I highly recommend. The next song was Viva La Quinte Brigada, Christy’s song about the Spanish Civil War. Bogman written by his brother Luka Bloom also drew warm applause from the audience as did Ride On with the audience joining in and singing quite sweetly towards the end.
The next song I loved because I had never heard Christy sing it live before but I think it was the very first song I ever heard him sing solo. Sometime in the late 1970’s I bought a double folk compilation vinyl album called All The Folk That Fits. There was some great music on it, Planxty, De Dannan, The Bothy Band, The Bards, Dubliners, Fureys and many others. At the time I didn’t even know that Christy was in Planxty. It had one song though called Johnny Jump Up by Christy. I used to play it to my dad and it made him laugh. I still have that album, I can’t play it any more because I haven’t got a turntable now. It was nice to hear the song again at the RFH and Cathal joined in on banjo. Brilliant !
Then it was City Of Chicago followed by The Well Below The Valley with Christy playing the bodran. Another song that seems to take on more meaning these days when you look at the news and missiles being fired over Japan is Hiroshima/ Nagasaki/ Russian Roulette. Barney Rush’s Nancy Spain was next. Christy must have sung it thousands of times and it still sounds as beautiful as ever. It was also a delight to hear Reel In The Flickering Light again which is a brilliant and funny song. Little Musgrave was also wonderful and reminds me of Matty Groves by Fairport Convention. Christy said he first heard Ordinary Man in Cleethorpes in 1986 and learned it from a cassette. Fairy Tale Of New York is a classic song and I’m glad Christy played it because J.P. Donleavy who wrote the book from which Shane MacGowan got the title died just a few days ago aged 91 R.I.P. Somebody in the audience shouted something out at this point and Christy said, “I don’t know what you are saying,.... but I agree with you” which the crowd found very amusing. Then he sang Don’t Forget Your Shovel which the audience clapped and sang along with. It is a very funny song but the underlying sentiment isn’t that far from Missing You when you think about it. The powerful and tragic story of On Morecambe Bay was next followed by the beautiful Christy interpretation of Richard Thompson’s Beeswing. Christy then said, “Now some poetry from County Antrim” and sang McIllhatton written by the late Bobby Sands. I think he must feel obliged to sing the next song when in London. It is of course Sweet Thames Flow Softly and it was marvellous. We knew we were getting to the end when he announced No Time For Love which is a very powerful song written by Jack Warshaw. At the end Declan and Christy were really rocking out on the guitars.
They all took a bow and left the stage but we knew there would be an encore which was The Time Has Come and finally Lisdoonvarna/ I’ll Tell Me Ma which brought a great concert to an end. What a night.
Next morning when I left my hotel I was still buzzing from the events of the night before. I walked down to the river. It was only 10.30 in the morning but I thought a quiet pint wouldn’t do me no harm. The Founders Arms was open so I went in and ordered a pint of cider and sat outside and watched the sweet Thames flow softly by. I noticed that the windy weather was causing the leaves to start tumblin’ down and realised my summer of music was coming to an end. What a way to end it though. Thank you very much Declan, Jimmy, Cathal and especially Christy for a splendid concert in London.
PS, If I have made any mistakes I hope Hilary or young Colm will let me know !
PPS, I found most of the photos on Google Images. I hope nobody minds me using them.