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Concert Review by Nick Morgan
  CHRISTY MOORE with DECLAN SINNOTT Barbican, London, April 17th 2006
Declan Sinnott (left) and Christy Moore (right)
Well it’s the Barbican, but not as we usually know it. Few are the Guardian hugging high-brows or the blue-rinsed patrons of the arts. In fact it’s a bit more like a rugby match at Lansdowne Road – glasses and bottles fill every available surface, even lined up along the top of the men’s urinals, which are also doing mighty service to the bladders of the thirst quenched crowd. Of course it’s a high day and bank holiday – our first one of the year, and as historians will surmise, it’s also an anniversary of some appropriate note. But it’s principally a rare solo appearance in London by Irish folk legend Christy Moore, whom we were privileged to see in the same venue last year performing with the simply wonderful Planxty, accompanied tonight by long-time collaborator and one time Horslips and Moving Hearts guitarist, Declan Sinnott.
Moore’s particular legend combines wild rock and roll excess, a voice of remarkably fragile beauty, sometime outstanding songwriting, a deep respect for the traditional canon, an ability to make other performers’ deeply personal songs his own, humour, dark depression, and a commitment to a variety of political causes, (starting at home with the Irish Republican movement but moving to support for the oppressed and victims of injustice around the world) for whom he has become something of a global voice, albeit always on his own terms. He’s fiercely passionate, I would suspect surprisingly vulnerable and self critical, has something of the perfectionist about him, wears his heart on his sleeve, and has a very short tolerance of audiences who choose to participate unasked. “There you are thinking, what a big moody old bollocks that he is, not wanting us to clap” he chides himself, having brought an over excited audience to heel with a single menacing glance. In fact (Billy Bragg please note) he doesn’t say much at all during this song packed two and a quarter hours, choosing to let his music do the talking, which it does with considerable eloquence.
Now if you weren’t there, rather than bother reading this you could buy a copy of his latest double CD, Live from Dublin 2006. Though remarkably only about half of the twenty eight songs that we get are among the thirty on that two disc set. That in itself says something about the huge repertoire of material that Moore has collected over the years. Quite how he puts the set together I can’t imagine, let alone understand how he remembers all the words (“If I get the first line it’ll be ok”, he tells us, “the first is the important one”).
But it has to be observed that by the time he’s finished there aren’t many Irish or British institutions that haven’t taken a good knocking (he breaks into the Irish equivalent of a talking blues in the middle of the apparently harmless ‘Don’t forget your shovel if you want to go to work’ and turns the shovel into a Kalashnikov to spray hot lead at leading politicians in both countries, and Serge’s beloved Charles and Camilla) along with the United States (you should listen, Serge, to his version of Morrissey’s ‘America you are not the world’, I think you would enjoy it). He has a moving reflection on the recent past in his own country, ‘Smoke and strong whiskey’ (“It's Easter again, and we cannot forget, our brothers and sisters and all that was said, so practise your pipes, stand proud in the wet, for the eyes of the world are upon you”).The Church gets a beating up in Joni Mitchell’s ‘Magdalene Laundry’; wife beaters get some of their own treatment in ‘A stitch in time’; privilege, corrupt legal systems and the Freemasons are the targets of Dylan’s ‘Hattie Carroll’, and Capitalism takes a bit of a poke in ‘Ordinary Man’. And a number of songs dwell on the not always easy experience of the Irish Diaspora – in the USA (‘City of Chicago’) and in London (‘Missing you’), not that Moore seems to be unhappy to be here. His version of Ewan McColl’s ‘Sweet Thames flow softly’ exudes a deep affection for the dear old Smoke.
And these and other songs of commitment were mixed with some heart achingly touching love songs, tales of tragedy, and just plain nonsense. ‘North and south of the river’ (co-written with Bono and The Edge), ‘Song of the wandering Aengus’ (“music written by Judy Collins, Yates out of Sligo wrote the words”), ‘Nancy Spain’ and Richard Thompson’s ‘Beeswing’ provides some of the love interest. ‘The two Conneeleys’ and ‘Cry like a man’ some of the tragedy, the crowd pleasing ‘Lisdoonvarna’ and the thoroughly mad ‘Sixteen fishermen raving’ the nonsense.          
Regular Whiskyfun readers will also be interested to know that we had a well informed illicit distilling song, ‘McIlhatton’, written by IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands. And, though I can’t list everything that was played, I should mention a noble performance of ‘The well below the valley’, with Moore on bowrawn, and a ‘you could hear a pin drop’ moment when he sang ‘Hurt’, the Trent Reznor song memorably performed by Johnny Cash on The Man Comes Around.
I really do think it would be easier if you bought you the CD, which really speaks for itself. It shows off Moore’s wonderful voice, which was really in good shape at the Barbican, and Sinnott’s guitar work (ditto). You might also like to buy Burning Times, a collection of covers (some quite excellent) by Moore and Sinnott released last year. Best of all, of course, go and see him if you ever get the sniff of a chance. It’s a grand night, you won’t be disappointed. - Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate)

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