Music Network tours are like Big Brother for musicians”, says Jarlath Henderson, one third of this organisation's latest experiment. I have written on here before about Music Network. They invite musicians who do not normally play together to develop a show, which they then get to perform in some of the nicest theatres across Ireland. Sometimes the end result is not greater than the sum of its parts, but mostly it is.

Damien Dempsey and Lankum - two of the most Dublin of acts playing on a summer's evening in the Iveagh Gardens in the city centre: An opportunity not to be missed. The concert was part of a series of summertime concerts put on by Aiken Promotions at this great location. The number of shows seems to increase year on year. Keep 'em coming guys!

When it comes to Lankum I am biased. I happen to think they are the best band in Ireland (read my previous review), but Damo's fans appeared swiftly won over too. The band recently underwent a name change. They were Lynched, named after the band's brothers Ian and Daragh Lynch. They became uncomfortable with the name, particularly when playing in the U.S. "We will not continue to work under our current name while the systematic persecution and murder of Black people in the USA continues", read their official statement. Their new name is Lankum, which comes from the Irish Traveller ballad 'False Lankum'. The transitional period has now passed and no reference was made to it during the show.

Their time slot was short and they made the most of it, curtailing the banter somewhat. They opened with 'Sergeant William Bailey'. Radie Peat impressed with her vocal turn on 'What Will We Do When We Have No Money', and their four part harmonies were particularly powerful on 'The Peat Bog Soldiers'. I am hoping that these songs will be on the band's second album, the completion of which was recently announced eloquently on Twitter with the words "In the fucking bag, bitches".

'The Irish Jubilee', a wordy vaudeville song about food, was preceded by the band throwing fruit and chocolate bars into the audience. I heard the song before but this time I actually managed to catch all the words (all 10,000 of them...). Their masterpiece 'Cold Old Fire' remains a highlight and they finished of with 'The Old Man From Over The Sea', no doubt having gained new fans.

For Damien Dempsey this was his first hometown show since the release of his latest album 'Soulsun' (review here) Damien has had to postpone UK dates in May due to a nose operation ("me septum's as bent as the back roads of Finglas", as per his website). Thankfully he appeared in fine form and good voice and he had his stellar band with him, which includes long time producer John Reynolds on drums, musical maestro Éamonn de Barra on flute and whistle, and Pauline Scanlon on backing vocals. Unfortunately Pauline's voice got buried in the mix, from where I stood anyway.

I am an old-fashioned music fan who wants to hear new music at a concert, but the reality nowadays is that crowds demand to be pleased and hits must be played. This is no hardship as Damien has a great catalogue and the entire gig was excellent, however I would have liked to have heard more from 'Soulsun'. The title track was played - and well received - plus 'Pretty Bird Tree', 'Simple Faith' and the standout track from the album, 'Soft Rain', an ode to Dublin. I noticed people around me rapping along word for word to that song's spoken word verses. Damien is planning a full Irish tour later on in the year, so hopefully he will play more from the new album then.

Other highlights were 'Chris and Stevie' from the 'Almighty Love' album (a tale about suicide, still very relevant), 'The rocky road to Dublin' (I just love his version) and 'Patience' (such a nice melody). The singalongs were massive, as were the "Damo-o-oh" chants any time it got quiet in between songs.

It was a proper long gig too, with a cover of the Pogues' ' Rainy Night In Soho' and Damien's biggest hit 'It's All Good' for encores. And the party continued on into the night, with people singing "Love yourself today, okay" in the streets as they left. Happy days.

Helen

Damien's Website

Lankum Website

 

On Saturday 22 July 2017 The Joshua Tree returned to Croke Park. I saw the original Joshua Tree tour at Wembley and was too far back to really enjoy it back then. That was in the days when bands just played stadiums, rather than putting on a show designed for a large venue. U2 have now become the masters of the stadium show. There is no one like them in this regard – beautiful visuals, really imaginative use of the screens.

My ticket was for the back part of the field, i.e. not the front pit. I got almost as good a spot as I could with that (three rows from the dividing barrier), which was okay. Would have preferred to have been nearer.

Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds were very disappointing. I like Noel. In interviews he comes across as really nice, and he is very witty. He has written all these great songs, but he is no frontman and only an average singer. In the Liam versus Noel battle it is 1-0 for Liam this summer. If only they could patch up their differences... Noel played 'Wonderwall' and 'Don't Look Back In Anger' and it sounded strangely flat. I was dutifully singing along but not enjoying it.

I had been to a wonderful gig the previous night (Damien Dempsey and Lankum) and wondered if this event perhaps was not going to live up to that. But then a magical moment came.

I had purposely avoided reading reviews or looking at clips of the Joshua Tree tour. I knew U2 were going to play the album, but I did not really know about the rest of the show. Suddenly 'The Whole Of The Moon' blasted out of the PA and all of Croke Park sang along. My mood switched instantly. On the last tour U2 had 'People Have The Power' as their walk on song, so my beloved Waterboys are in the best company.

U2 opened with 'Sunday Bloody Sunday'. They played four songs on the smaller podium that extended into the pit, just them playing, with no special effects. Of course one of the most endearing things about U2 is that it is always just the four of them, no additional musicians. 'New Year's Day', 'Bad' and 'Pride (In The Name Of Love') followed. Not a bad opening section.

They moved to the main stage for the actual performance of the Joshua Tree itself and this is when the extravaganza started. Just as 'Where The Streets Have No Name' kicked in, four planes with smoke trails in the colour of the Irish flag flew over the stadium. It was as if they had shot up from the stage. An incredible moment – hard to describe.

The band played in front of a gigantic LED screen on which stunning images were shown, bright and laser sharp. These were shot by Anton Corbijn (which Bono mispronounced as Corbyn; surely he knows Anton long enough to be able to pronounce his name correctly?!). I would love to see these videos again actually. This is the thing with U2 shows: So much happens at once that you do not know where to look. I have DVDs of the '360' and 'Innocence And Experience' tours, but you cannot really capture on DVD what it is like to be there, 'in' the show as it were.

I never actually owned a copy of the Joshua Tree album, so I had a vague idea that I would not know the non-single tracks terribly well, and so it was. Bono specifically welcomed us to side two of the album, and for me that was the best part: Songs that I had not really listened to in great detail before, accompanied by amazing footage: 'Red Hill Mining Town', 'Trip Through Your Wires', 'One Three Hill', 'Exit', fabulous stuff.

There was an enormous ovation when the album finished, followed by a short break. The band returned and the last part of the show was triumphant. Bono talked quite a bit, plugging the ONE campaign, thanking their crew and mentioning what it meant for them to play Croke Park. All the band seemed quite emotional at stages.

'Miss Sarajevo' was accompanied by images of a Syrian refugee camp. This was shot by a French artist at a camp in Jordan and was so compelling that I had to stop watching the band. During 'Ultra Violet (Light My Way)' the screens showed images of pioneering women, politicians, writers, activists, but also Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Patti Smith, Grace Jones and Poly Styrene, all of whom of course inspired U2 in their early days. The roll call also included MP Jo Frost and captain Dara Fitzpatrick.

Unlike some, I am also a fan of U2s later work, and for me 'Elevation' and 'Vertigo' were standouts. To prove they are not a heritage act, they finished with an excellent new song, 'The Little Things That Give You Away'. Full marks for another superb show. I guess like many who attended, I will be playing all my U2 albums today.

Side note: I was standing near the barrier on “Edge's side”, but also close to the VIP section. During Noel's drab set everybody in my area got involved in celebrity spotting. I saw Leo Varadkar, John Rocha, Ali Hewson (very pretty), Gavin Friday, Guggi, Noel Gallagher's wife, Glen Hansard, Mark Geary and Colin Farrell. Once U2 came on people stopped paying attention to them as there was more important stuff to watch.

I did not take my camera. The photo is from U2's Instagram page.

Helen.

There are worse places to be in Bristol on a rainy Saturday night than Colston Hall. For those who haven’t had the pleasure, it is the largest venue in Bristol. Although I can’t be certain, it is probably the smallest largest venue for a city of Bristol’s size. And the venue within the venue, The Lantern, is smaller still with a capacity of c. 350. And it’s at the Lantern that Mt. Wolf had their first headline show in Bristol for the last show of a mini-tour to celebrate the launch of their new album, Aetherlight.

About 100 now dry souls had the run of the various facilities of Colston Hall as there was no act at the larger venue that evening. However, once Mt Wolf any feelings of emptiness were soon filled by a band that was very much on a mission. First, they augmented their core (guitar and vocals, acoustic guitar and drums) with a keyboardist, backing vocalist and four strings. Second, they had a tailored light show far above the usual standard for such a venue. Last, they played with immense conviction and passion.

The vocalist evoked both Matt Berninger and Jonsi, which is no small feat. While the band as a whole also had touchstones of the National and Sigur Ros. I also heard a lot of Explosions in the Sky as the songs built to sonic and emotional crescendos. Overall, I think all went back into the wet night quite pleased with how the evening panned out and eager to follow a band clearly on the up.

Kevin B.

Website

Saint Sister are at a curious stage in their career trajectory. Their officially recorded output numbers seven songs (one EP and two singles), yet their popularity is such that they fill the sizeable, as well as beautiful, National Concert Hall in Dublin. How did they get there?

Gemma Doherty from Derry and Morgan MacIntyre from Belfast met in Dublin while both were singing with the Trinity College Orchestra. Gemma plays the harp and has a background in trad and classical music. Morgan was previously working as a solo singer/songwriter and is influenced by storytellers such as Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez. They started Saint Sister in November 2014. Their music has been described at atmosfolk. I find it reminds me mostly of 80's pop – in a good way: The gothic sound of the Cocteau Twins, the melodies of All About Eve and the poppiness of Strawberry Switchblade.

It is amazing how well their intricate music works live. Saint Sister have gigged mostly as a duo, with harp and keyboards. They use (but not over-use) a loop pedal at times. What will have done their popularity no harm is that they managed to appear at all the coolest of events: SXSW in Austin, the BBC Introducing stage at Glastonbury, RTE's Other Voices in Dingle and Eurosonic in Groningen (see YouTube for clips of their performances there).

I first saw Saint Sister live at Dublin's Christchurch Cathedral last November. That night felt like a carefully planned event as much as a concert, with special affects, lights and the venue itself all contributing towards the special atmosphere. They went a step further for their National Concert Hall show. Special mention first of all has to go to the support act, I Have A Tribe, a sympathetic solo artist who sings melancholic songs while accompanying himself on piano.

Saint Sister themselves pulled out all the stops for this concert. They still performed part of the show as a duo (and I hope they will continue to do this), but had two additional musicians on stage for the majority of their set. Furthermore, a three piece brass section and a six man/woman choir joined them for a number of songs. The result was amazing; it all sounded and looked beautiful. The girls have recently toured mainland Europe as support act for Lisa Hannigan, who came on as a special guest on the night. Lisa, Gemma and Morgan sang a song a cappella, followed by a cover of Leonard Cohen's 'Suzanne'.

In a perfect world the show would have been a couple of songs longer, but I guess it is always good to leave your audience wanting more. The band received a prolonged standing ovation for their efforts.
The concert was filmed, so hopefully we will be able to watch this again someday. I believe that Saint Sister have a great future ahead of them. Hope that they will release a proper album soon!

Catch them at the Lake Stage at Latitude in July or the Other Voices stage at the Electric Picnic in September.

Helen

Website

I Have a Tribe

Something of a deviation for us so intrigued and excited in equal measure about this gig. I hadn't done much research on the band beforehand so went along with a completely open mind. On record they are one of those bands that sounds like there's loads of 'em so I was a little surprised to see just four on stage.

An interesting gig on many levels. As the lights went down the stage gave an impression of a theatrical performance in the offing rather than a high-energy gig, with a couch either side of the stage. one with a lamp beside it, the other with a small table and flower arrangement The keys player was a demure Alt-J look-a-like, and as he proceeded through his classical intro he was joined by the bass player from the shadows followed by forms appearing from the settees, being sax player and drummer in mock awakening mode. After a few moments of stretching they took their places and went into the opening number,

This is an extremely tight band, most songs having a jazz foundation. Sax was front and centre throughout the set but didn't dominate. They included a good selection of songs from late 2016 release ‘IV' but alongside this there was plenty of room for each of the band members to showcase their immense talent. And herein lies the reason this outfit are so enjoyable - there was so much variety in their sounds including almost prog-rock deviations including particularly impressive bass solo.

Maintaining a level of humour throughout, at moments when they weren’t included in a particular jam they lay centre stage with a duvet over themselves. Audience participation was requested through a ‘sea of hands’ onto which was launched a blow-up dolphin that had hitherto sat on the drummers PA stack

Whilst most of the songs were instrumental, occasional vocals were provided by the drummer and as the set entered it’s final few songs they had guest appearances from two different female vocalists, the first of which gave a touching rendition of 'Love is A Losing Game’. The second guest vocal, in the encore, was a harder-edged rapper

An excellent and diverse set. West End theatre, Back street jazz club, Festival , New York rap bar, Kentish Town Forum - BBNG Took us to all these places tonight.

Si

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There are several elements which need to come together to make a great and memorable gig; the quality of the musicians, the set list they select , the venue and the audience all contribute . Last October at the Derby Folk Festival in the cathedral, this Folk Award winning duo were the stand out performance of the weekend, so I was intrigued to see if their own brand of “....lugubrious bastards out in full lilting lachrymosity” (to quote from their own social media) would translate to a different venue . The Musician is located at the end of a street in one of the less glamorous parts of Leicester, the venue regularly puts on a great selection of live music in a single room with a low ceiling and couldn't provide a greater contrast to Derby Cathedral. Any doubts I had that Clarke & Walker wouldn't work as well here were quickly trashed.

After taking their allotted stage places, Ben seated and Josienne standing, Josienne starts with a perfect antidote to the often used “Let's Rock!”opening of some bands and a reminder of their “misery wagon ... spreading the melancholy” (see above), “Let's get miserable”. Opening with the bluesy 'The Birds' from her first album, followed by “.. and now another banging, dance floor filler” which is the beautiful 'Something Familiar' from most recent album 'Overnight', as is Gillian Welch's 'Dark Turn of Mind', which Josienne feels describes her and jokingly that on the writing of the song “..Gillian wrote it first, well I feel I would eventually have ...”.

“So we just lost a folk award”... referring to their best duo Folk Award nomination (winners 2015, nominees 2016) they play their cover of the traditional “The Banks of Sweet Primroses” as performed at the 2015 awards show.

There are a few new songs tonight, 'Seedlings All' is written about humans being the most overproduced organism on the planet and has a lovely waltz-time guitar part, another track possibly called 'Chicago' is the occasion on a US tour when they arrived at a show in that city to an audience of zero, as a reminder not to become a diva. Then in a shock move that may “.....put the final nail into our folk coffin...” they have two tracks featuring a drum machine (please no fainting now), one of which is a cover of Dolly Parton's 'Little Sparrow'... after which Josienne says “maybe we've had a couple of walk-outs, it's too dark to tell”.

The Musician is in its 'Folk club' set up tonight, chairs grouped around small round tables with a candle on each one, familiar to those who have seen the Coen Brothers 'Inside Llewyn Davis' based in 1960's Greenwich Village folk clubs, recalling this period they play covers of 'Reynardine' and 'Fotheringay' both well know from the 1960's version of Fairport Convention.

Josienne's self-deprecating sense of dark humour continues with her review of their version of Nick Drakes' 'Time Has Told Me', “...beautiful but rather pointless, much like the band playing as the Titanic sank.”. And of her own songwriting style “ I keep trying to write a euphoric, anthemic number but they eventually descend into melancholy” before playing 'Silverline' which features the line “And somehow my view is always imbued with melancholy hues” just to prove the point.

Those of you who are already aware of this duo will know that Josienne's stunning, melancholic (yes, that word again) vocals and Ben's beautiful guitar playing, which is subtle and supportive of Josienne's vocals when it needs to be and is also strong enough to drive the tracks in a variety of different styles when required, together make a perfect combination. Maybe you cannot dance to these “lugubrious bastards”, but you cannot fail to be totally engrossed by their beautiful, mesmerising performance.

Alisdair Whyte

Website

 

There is a pub halfway up the Rathmines Road that has changed name many times over the years. It has now become a live music venue. I first became aware of this when I noticed that none other than Lee Scratch Perry was due to play a stone's throw from my flat. The Upsetter proved to be too popular and his show was moved to a bigger venue, but on Thursday I got to check the venue out.

On the bill were Liam O Maonlaí, musical genius best known as the singer of the Hothouse Flowers, and Rónán Ó Snodaigh, founder member of Kíla. These descriptions do not at all do them full justice. Both men also work as solo artists and collaborators in numerous musical projects. Rónán teaches the bodhran and has recently started a Tuesday night trad session with Eoin Dillon at Whelans (see 'Call The Dancers'). I first became aware of Liam when the wonderful video for 'Don't Go' was shown at the 1988 Eurovision, and I have recently seen him play churches, either solo on a church organ or with his other band Ré.

Both men were active in the Grafton Street busking scene in the 80's alongside Glen Hansard and Mic Christopher amongst others. They are Gaeilgeoirs (Irish speakers) and the advert for the show described them as musical shamans, druids even! I did not know what to expect of the collaboration but was sure it would be fascinating.

The show took place on Holy Thursday and the venue was packed and lively. On Good Friday the pubs would stay closed, so folks seemed bent on living it up. Support came from David Keenan, a young singer/songwriter from Dundalk. I was struck by his confidence. David has a strong voice, not unlike Liam, sometimes sounding like Damien Dempsey. The songs he sang were all his own and I particularly liked one about James Dean. Though he was unknown to me he had a fan base in attendance that was seated near me.

Liam O Maonlaí is a multi-instrumentalist, but for this show he concentrated on the piano, besides a short stint on the bodhran and some frantic African-style dancing (impressive for a man the far side of 50). Rónán stuck to the bodhran, of which he is a master, plus one song on a tiny guitar. The varied set included some Hothouse Flowers songs ('Movies', 'Feel Like Living') and some Kíla ones ('Dúisigí' and 'Cathain'). Both men have recorded 'Cathain' and they sang this together in breakneck speed Irish, which sounds very exotic to my ears.

An early highlight was a highly original cover version of Talking Heads' 'Once In A Lifetime'. Many of the songs turned into long jams, with tribal percussion and improvised singing. There were some traditionals too – 'Carrickfergus' and 'Bean Pháidín'. Rónán sang a song in English for a fallen friend. I very much like his unique voice, but I do somehow think he sounds better singing in Irish, perhaps because I am more used to hearing him sing that way.

The atmosphere in the packed pub was fantastic, as the beer kept flowing and the crowd kept calling for more. The show ended with Liam leading the crowd; something he is so good at and which I have seen him do on a number of very different occasions (at the Festival of World Cultures, at Glen Hansard's traditional Christmas Eve busk in Grafton Street). He manages to get everyone on board, not just the trad cognoscenti. And it was not an easy song we sang either. He got the entire pub to sing several verses of the 'Lakes Of Pontchartrain'. It was a truly magical moment.

If you ever get the chance to see these druids collaborate, do not miss it!

Helen.

A quick view of the gig 

 

 

The projection screen above the stage glowing with images similar to the opening shots from an episode of Twin Peaks illuminates tonight's audience: check shirts = plenty; beards= of course; audience members under the age of 30 years = not many ; bald/ balding heads some covered by baseball caps = inevitably. After a hiatus of 10 years Ladies and Gentleman welcome back, Grandaddy.

The past seventeen years vanish during the intro to the first track tonight which is 'Hewlett's Daughter' from their breakthrough album 'The Sophtware Slump', frontman Jason Lytle's characteristic vocals and the tinkling piano riff wiping the years away. The projection screen changes to shots of huge expanses of deserts a perfect fit for the epic opening, power chords of ' “Yeah” Is What We Had' from 'Sumday', the chorus of “In this life, will I ever see you again?” being a question many of the audience had presumably asked of the band.

At the end of the song Jason proves that he's done some research into the local dialect “ Ay Up Mi Ducks, is that how it goes?”, (I can provide a satisfactory translation of “Hello Everyone” for those of you not from the East Midlands).

A sound similar to a fanfare from a child's trumpet and Aaron Burtch's (supporting fine Billy Gibbons style facial hair) metronomic drumming start the first track from this year's superb new album ' Last Place', with it's lovely melody over the lyric “Damned if we do. Dumb if we don't”. Single 'Evermore' pulls a very similar trick and proves that this new set of songs is as strong as anything from their back catalogue.

The projection screen of vast Mid-Western American landscapes of deserts, railroads and trucks which rolls along throughout the set is so bright we mostly see the band in shadow and silhouette so that it almost feels as if we are listening to the soundtrack to a road movie. Jason breaks out of the soundtrack mood during 'Lost on Yer Merry Way' by laughing at himself as he stumbles over the words.

One of the most instantly recognisable song intros of the past 20 years has to be the wonky keyboard of 'A.M. 180', so it deservedly gets the warm reaction of instant recognition when it kicks in, as does 'The Crystal Lake' a single from 2000.

The main set finishes with an extended version of ' He's Simple, He's Dumb, He's the Pilot' which is a perfect choice , it's simple harpsichord /vocals start which then builds with layers of swelling keyboards through “Are you giving in 2000 man? ( Did you love this world and did this world not love you ?)” for an appropriate finish to tonight's show.

A two track encore follows “ We got one new one, and one old one”; the new one being 'The Boat Is In Barn', which is the best track from the new album and the old one is a complete mood change with the guitar- heavy dash through 'Summer Here Kids', with an added “ Thank you for coming, Good Night” as the final chords fade away.

A tremendous evening highlighting the best moments of their career; Grandaddy welcome back, a worthwhile return.

Alisdair Whyte

A sold out Junction 1 and everyone is seated for this gig. A strange set up for what is traditionally a standing venue, not sure if this was the choice of the artist or the venue?

Being seated there was a healthy queue outside the venue an hour before the doors opened. Amusing to see (much like myself) so many grey haired people in line for a gig. Fabulous!

Very much a Cambridge Folk festival crowd saw the support Jordan Mackampa play a sweet set. Just solo with acoustic guitar, an upcoming singer/songwriter to look out for.

This tour is about promoting Rhiannon’s solo album ‘Freedom Highway’ which was co-produced with multi-instrumentalist Dirk Powell in his Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, studio. Dirk is also part of an impressive band that takes the stage at 9pm.

90 minutes later we are left in awe I think it’s safe to say, Rhiannon has the most amazing voice, gentle and powerful enough to shatter a crystal chandelier ., indeed a voice that is sharp, clear and envelops the listener that you are just concentrated on the music (perhaps being seated is just perfect after all, no one chatting, heading for the bar or toilets).

Not only is Rhiannon’s voice amazing she is a mean banjo and fiddle player. A wonderful personality keeps everyone engaged whatever the style of music in front of you.

The songs from ‘Freedom Highway” look back at pre civil war America and Rhiannon sings songs about and through the eyes of those souls alive at the time.

‘At The Purchasers Option’ a song about the sale of a woman and her child. ‘The Angels laid him away”, ‘Julie” (as the army approach the plantation mistress begs the slaves to protect the family gold, to which she is told the gold “is what you got from my children’s soul").

‘Birmingham Sunday’ is perhaps the poignant and heartbreaking part of the set. A song that describes what occurred at the African-American 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama on Sunday, September 15, 1963, As Rhiannon pointed out before singing, it’s so sad that the topic of the song still has so much relevance today.

The album songs are sprinkled throughout the set which includes, magnificent covers of, Patsy Cline, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Odetta and more; jigs, waltzes, jazz and soul. (no chance to dance though because we are seated ha ha)

The band is exceptional and there seems a real kinship amongst those on stage. More UK dates are expected in the autumn, don’t miss out!

Pete

Website

I have been with them from the beginning. In the summer of 2011 I was at a gathering at a friend's house on the outskirts of Dublin. I felt out of place and was not enjoying myself. Suddenly it dawned on me that I could jump on my bike, cycle very fast across the city and be at the National Concert Hall in time to try and see the Gloaming. I had seen the listing; I was a fan of Martin Hayes & Dennis Cahill and I knew Iarla Ó Lionáird from the Afro Celt Sound System. My plan worked out. Although the concert was officially sold out, the box office were able to sell me a single seat near the back of the stalls.

The Gloaming were a new supergroup and that show at the National Concert Hall in 2011 was their live debut. It was great, but over the years they have only gotten better. I saw them once more at the Concert Hall, on one of the nights when their fan Michael D Higgins was in attendance, and once at Womad, probably my favourite time I have seen them.

The quintet have released two albums on Real World and they have been returning annually to the Concert Hall in Dublin, which they call their spiritual home. This year they sold out an unprecedented seven shows. I was at night six.

The Gloaming are Martin Hayes on fiddle, his longtime accompanist Dennis Cahill on guitar, Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh on hardanger fiddle, Iarla Ó Lionáird on vocals and pump organ and Thomas Bartlett on piano. All musicians except Thomas come from a trad background, but the music they produce together is much bigger than trad. It is hard to describe. There are trad parts, particularly played by Martin, but they are woven into larges pieces of music, sometimes jazzy, sometimes classical, often up to ten minutes long.

The tunes start off softly and slowly, but gradually gather pace until all musicians are in full flow. The result is hypnotic and spellbinding. I read some reviews online and Jim Carroll said it best in the Irish Times: “Breathtaking, groundbreaking, grandstanding and any other accolade you want to apply from your big bag of superlatives.”

The band members take turns addressing the audience in between songs. Larla gives us background on the songs, Caoimhín mentions that Philip King is in the house, Martin makes us laugh with his droll sense of humour. Thomas mentions that he is nervous as his best friend Joanie is at the show. Only later does it become clear that this is none other than Joan As Police Woman, who will play Dublin two days later. Dennis is the quiet man, but then he is their backbone musically.
They play for over an hour and a half in a set that includes all the best pieces from their two albums. The audience is totally quiet while they play, but erupt in loud and elongated applause when the songs end. The sound is perfect; sometimes barely more than a scratchy whisper (Caoimhín's fiddle), at other times thunderously loud (Thomas' piano). The lighting is pretty and underlines what a beautiful place the Concert Hall is for witnessing live music. At the same time the music makes you forget where you are. We are in a large room in the city centre, yet the sounds are such that you feel yourself out in nature, confronted by rolling waves, noisy waterfalls, moon and stars above. I found myself wishing that the night would not end.

The band members are incredibly talented and involved in many individual projects. I can only hope that they will continue reconvening as a group periodically and treat us to such magical performances.

For those unfamiliar with the Gloaming we have some recommendations:

Iarla Ó Lionáird's radio documentary series about singing, available as podcasts.

Documentary about Martin Hayes, 'Natural Grace' (2012), directed by Art Ó Briain - Trailer

'The Gloaming – Moment to Moment' (2016), documentary directed by Philip King, available on the RTE Player.

Band Website

Helen

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