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Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Saint Frances !

The Citadel,
St. Helens
Saturday 13th November 2004

Frances is one of the six founders of the legendary album series, A Woman’s Heart. Ever since Eleanor McEvoy sold me an autographed copy of one of these albums, I have pledged myself to support those who call in at a town nearby.
The Citadel is a quaint little theatre. The auditorium is about the same depth as the stage. It also has an upper circle. It was about two thirds full, so I would estimate that there were about 150 people present. It would probably have been a full house had the nearby Maghull Folk Club not decided to book a festival on the same night. Still, it was their loss.
At just after 8pm a young man stepped up to mike. He was dressed in jeans, trainers and an 80s style Sweden football shirt – and in a healthy local accent he confidently and competently invited us to welcome Frances Black.
With Jimmy Smith from Navan as sole accompaniment on acoustic guitar for the opening song, she lulled the attentive and appreciative audience into a state of submission with ‘Stranger on the Shore’. And as she explained the format for the evening’s show and described the next song, Eoghan Scott (bass guitar) and Pat Fitzpatrick (keyboards) entered the stage.
Our seats were on the front row and I thought it would look discourteous if I scribbled the setlist. I wish I had compiled one now, because I can’t for the life of me remember the next song. So I’ll pick out a couple of highlights from what was a brilliant show.

Frances likes to talk. She has a nice broad Dublin accent to go with it and as far as I’m concerned she can describe paint drying and it would be riveting. Suffice it to say paint drying never cropped up – although her description of the title song of her current album, ‘How High The Moon ‘ is worth the entrance fee alone.
We were also encouraged to sing the odd chorus and warned us that ‘volunteers’ would be sought after to join her on stage in the second half. It proved to be no idle threat when three willing guinea pigs joined her for ‘When You Say Nothing At All’. A song made famous by Ronan Keating, whom she admires greatly, but she didn’t hold back when we were reminded that Frances was the first to take the song into the Irish charts.

All good shows contain a moment for reflection, this was no exception. Last year, her mother, Patty, passed away. I won’t dwell on the understandable state of sensitivity, but as her way of coming to terms with her loss she dedicates a little part of the show to her memory. If you thought Eva Cassidy’s version of ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow’ was emotionally charged then try and witness Frances sing this live.
Since having the priviledge of seeing Brian Connor accompany Eleanor McEvoy I've developed a fascination with the style of keyboard players. Brian is classy to say the least, but after this gig I think I've spotted his match. Pat Fitzpatrick (who, like Brian, also comes from Belfast) was really laid back and witty. An example of this wit was shown when Frances introduced a Doris Day song (can't remember title). There was a short piano intro, within which Pat sneeked in a bar or two of 'Deadwood Stage' along with a quick smile to the audience.To the best of my knowledge, Frances has about seven albums on release and each one was represented. Also included was a version of Rathlin Island which features on The Black Family Album – Our Time Together.
She closed proceedings with a 2-song encore. One of which was an unaccompanied number call Legal/Illegal, the other was James Taylor's 'You've got a friend'.

For more on Frances, check out the website

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Juliet Turner meets Eleanor McEvoy at The Arches, Glasgow

Saturday 29th January 2005

So there I was minding my own business, carrying a couple of drinks up the steps from the basement bar in The Arches, Glasgow. I’d almost completed my ascent, when who should dash past me in the opposite direction with guitar case in hand, but Juliet Turner. She seemed a bit pre-occupied, so I didn’t interrupt. Juliet was due on stage about 50 minutes later. She was the first on in a double bill which also featured my other icon, Eleanor McEvoy.

A tight schedule had to be adhered to at this venue and all had to be finished and cleared away by 9:30, so there was no time to lose. Before we knew it, just a matter of seconds after Brian Grace had sound-checked the guitars under cover of darkness, there was Juliet. All but a couple were taken by surprise. Her response to the unexplained lack of enthusiasm went something like, “Well, judging by all that I suppose you’re all here for Eleanor McEvoy !” Laughter ensued.

She introduced us to the band which comprised a threesome like last year, but gone was Scouser Sean – the ace bass player. His place was taken by Kieran Boylan (excuse spelling). He would have toured with her earlier, but JT claimed he wasn’t good enough. After a brief audio interruption, our ears were in action. A bit of a “trad arr” for starters – couldn’t put a title to it. I couldn’t put a title to the second song either because it was one of her new ones. She did mention snakes scaring the sh** out of her in Canada as part of her story.

Dr. Fell then bought the audience to familiar ground, but by this time there was little reassurance required. This particular attendee was already looking forward to at least one future gig on her forthcoming UK tour.

Juliet's setlist (apologies for the unknowns) :

1. A “trad arr” – type song
2. A new one
3. Dr. Fell
4. Season Of The Hurricane
5. Vampire (Many Thanks Terry Wogan)
6. Burn The Black Suit
7. Another New One
8. Yet another new one – entitled Louisa, co-written by Kieran
9. 1987
10. A fantastic Pizza & Wine with a late nite bar piano style accompaniment
11. Everything Beautiful Is Burning

Apart from the odd interruption of a departing train from Glasgow Central above – was that a contrived cue for a song I heard ? – This was a delightful aperitif for Eleanor McEvoy who came on stage after a short break to rapturous applause which continued as she thanked Juliet.

After a brief technical hitch, we were straight into Fire Overhead and The Way You Wear Your Troubles (don’t clap too early) before the story about the LA fires.
One thing I particularly noticed about Eleanor's performance was her guitarwork. If you get to see he live yourself, just checkout Memphis Tenessee for a prime example - and follow her through the song.

This was a slightly abbreviated Eleanor performance, for reasons already stated. A notable omission was the piano-free version of The Rain Falls - another 'must' to witness at future gigs.

I was having the time of my life at this gig because not only was I being treated to top class entertainment from two of my favourite singer-songwriters, I’d spent an afternoon with the co-founder of Juliet Turners’ discussion group and during this gig I was stood with the author of Eleanor’s website.

If there was anything to marr my evening in dreamsville , it was just the pressing emergencies of time.

Eleanor's Setlist:

1. Fire Overhead
2. The Way You Wear Your Troubles
3. Easy In Love
4. You’ll Hear Better Songs Than This
5. I Got You To See Me Through
6. Memphis Tennessee
7. Days Roll By (Many Thanks Terry Wogan)
8. Driving Home From Butlers (plus the jig)
9. Leaves Me Wondering
10. Did You Tell Him
11. Isn’t It A Little Late
12. Apologise
13. (Encore) Joni Mitchell’s Carey