When I saw this concert advertized I immediately decided I wanted to go. I am a huge Bruce Springsteen fan plus a great admirer of Liam Ó Maonlaí, who is best known as the singer of the Hothouse Flowers, but who is an über-talented and versatile musician. Whatever he is involved in is worth hearing. Liam is a an Irish speaker, which made him the perfect choice to front this show.

Springsteen fanatics all over the world faced a dilemma recently, when Bruce announced his run of shows in a small theatre on Broadway. To splurge for this very special occasion or not to go? I decided against it. What we got in Dún Laoghaire on Wednesday was our own very special theatre show, in an intimate theatre, where you were seated really close to the musicians, and with wonderful visuals that were an integral part of the show.

This was Bruce 'as Gaeilge': A concert of some of his best songs translated into Irish by Gabriel Rosenstock under the title 'The Promised Land'. Throughout the entire show photos were projected behind the stage. These were typical American images of people, roads, landscapes and Springsteen places (Freehold, Atlantic City). There were also photos of Bruce and band, many with Clarence Clemons, and some great ones of Bruce with Patti Smith (during 'Because The Night'). The Irish lyrics could also be read on the screen. Margaret Lonergan was responsible for the visuals and she did a fantastic job.

The band were Liam Ó Maonlaí on vocals, piano and a selection of harmonicas, trad legend Steve Cooney on guitar, Trevor Hutchinson ('Fisherman's Blues'-era Waterboy and founder member of Lúnasa) on bass, Robbie Perry on drums and Nick Roth on saxophone and additional percussion. Even without the Springsteen subject matter this was a stellar band. Steve Cooney held it all together and seemed most familiar with the catalogue. The percussion was creative, the sax really added an E Street feel to the show and Liam's piano-playing is always wonderful.

The Springsteen songs picked were those that deal with the heartland of America; his songs about working men and women, dreamers, soldiers. The setlist was perfect. I would go as far as to say that I think it is a better song selection than the one that makes up the Bruce on Broadway show.

Liam put his own twist on the performance. 'Atlantic City' was mostly done as spoken word. 'The River' was more like the 'Reunion' tour version rather than the original. I loved the inclusion of many solo-Bruce songs, 'The Ghost Of Tom Joad', 'Devils And Dust', 'Youngstown'. A surprising, but very effective choice was Woody Guthrie's 'Vigilante Man', which Bruce covered on the 'A Vision Shared'-tribute album.

The band faltered once. They started off 'The Promised Land' to the tune of 'Factory'. Liam realized his mistake and joked about it, and Steve Cooney and audience hummed the correct melody. They rocked out impressively on some songs, most notably on 'Because The Night'. 'Let's Be Friends' was like a Hothouse Flowers song and had the audience clapping along. For the encore, 'Born To Run', Liam left the piano and went centre stage, glasses on and lyric sheet in hand.

All in all a fabulous show. Apparently there are plans to perform this once more in Belfast, but I think they should consider taking this show around Ireland. Springsteen is hugely popular here and this show deserves to be seen widely. Plus it gives fans the opportunity to experience Bruce's songs in a small theatre setting!


Photos by Brendan Fogarty


1. Racing in the street

2. Downbound train

3. Factory

4. The river

5. Atlantic City

6. The ghost of Tom Joad

7. Vigilante man

8. The promised land


9. Because the night

10. Devils and dust

11. Youngstown

12. Let's be friends

13. Nebraska

14. Tenth Avenue freeze out

15. Hungry heart


16. Born to run.