Nick Morgan and crew
Review by Nick Morgan
The Barbican, London
Sunday January 30th 2005
by Nick Morgan
have to thank Frank McCamley and Mike Hayward
for introducing me to Planxty
in October 1973. In a moment the cliché
of Irish folk music (“when I came home drunk
last night, as drunk as drunk could be”
etc.) was demolished.
at the same time I began an as yet unrequited love
affair with the painful, mournful, bending notes
of the Uilleann Pipes (Watkin Lees notwithstanding),
and with the angelic voices of Andy Irvine and Christy
Moore. The album, The Well Below the Valley, barely
survived the pounding of indifferent styli, spilt
beer and forgotten cigarettes, along with other
favourites such as 10CC and Little Feat. And the
eponymous song, a morbid celebration of rustic incest,
infanticide and consequent damnation, was, it was
whispered, never to be recorded, and certainly never
to be sung on stage. Welcome to a magical world
of mystery and musical complexity.
years later Planxty disbanded, and though briefly
reformed in the 1980s this supergroup of Irish folk
(their only equivalent I suppose is the Scottish/Irish
The Boys of the Lough) were confined to vinyl memories
and increasingly difficult to find CD reissues.
Of course all pursued individual careers, none more
so than Christy Moore, whose songs, soulful voice
and outstanding albums and performances have blazed
a trail for the poor, the oppressed, and the victims
on injustice for many years.
last year these four older, greyer and fatter
men (Editor’s note – enough of this!)
came together for a handful of performances in
Ireland. And on Sunday we sat transfixed amongst
the Willie Johns, the black haired darlings, the
raggle taggle gypsies and the forlorn anglicised
gentry of the Barbican as Planxty played their
first gigs in London for 25 years.
you see a band like this, who you never thought
you would, whose timeless respect for (and reinterpretation
of) tradition provides constant twists and surprises,
whose musical complexity (guitar, mandolin, voice,
pipe, bodhran, bazouki, flute) is both beguiling
and almost bewildering; well its almost enough
to bring tears to your eyes. And great news –
no need to write a set list – you can just
buy the Live 2004 CD and you’ll get the
bulk of it in the comfort of your own living room.
O’Flynn’s pipes on ‘The dark
slender boy’. Christy
Moore’s pronunciation of “taarrtarsch”
in ‘The good ship Kangaroo’; St Brendan’s
circumnavigation of the world, which sounded a lot
more fun than Ellen Macarthur’s, and Christy
Moore again singing on ‘Little Musgrave’
(or ‘Matty Groves’ to Fairporters).
Lunny’s astonishing and rhythmical guitar,
mandolin and bazouki (he counted in every song with
his plectrum on the strings as if he was about to
play ‘Voodoo chile’), and Andy
Irvine’s voice. “Jeez, I'd cry for
the sound of himself singing the menu at Kavanagh’s”,
whispered my raven-haired companion.
moment: Irvine singing Angus McBride – “The
Queen wouldn’t scruple to send us to France
where we would be shot in the morning”. And
song of the night, forget tradition, was Irvine’s
‘The west coast of Clare’. It’s
not quite as magical as Skye or Islay, but the tears,
like the smoke and the strong whisky, are just as
salty. - Nick Morgan, photos Kate Akers, X.
the index of all reviews:
Nick's Concert Reviews
There's nothing more down there...