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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

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