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Friday, October 21, 2005

Lured from Liverpool by 3 Ladies in Leiden

18th October 2005

I'd been looking forward to this show for ages but a dampener was put on it a couple of days beforehand, thanks to a lost passport. One final attempt to get hold of a replacement failed thanks to rules and regs at the UK Passport Office in Liverpool. Sadly, my wife, Jennifer had to stay at home and our son, Paul, came along instead.

It was one of those nights when I couldn't jot down a setlist because of the darkened auditorium and the threats from Paul, who said he'd disown me if he caught me scribbling.
I wish I had because I didn't want such an evening escape from my noticably failing memory.
So here follows one or two highlights of my recollections:-

The show was the last in a series of the Woman's Heart tour of The Netherlands and Belgium. It featured Mary Coughlan, Frances Black and Sharon Shannon.

The first voice I heard over the PA was Eleanor McEvoy, singing Only A Woman's Heart. Sadly, her voice was soon to be drowned out by the sound of a husky Hollander giving us a potted history of the phenomenal Album - A Woman's Heart.

First singer to appear was Mary Coughlan. To her left was grand piano and on her right were a couple of microphone stands.
It was the first time I have seen her perform live and prior to this show the only album I could get hold of was 'Love Me or Leave Me' which I'd only recently acquired. So apart from the AWH albums I knew little about her. I forgot the title of the opening song .....but I WAS interested.
Accompanied by James Delaney, a pure class piano player, Mary sang in a bluesy/jazzy style. Smooth & sophisticated. The duo were joined after the first song by Erik Visser on acoustic guitar. One song which particularly stood out was Magdelene Laundry. I've now heard three songs sharing this title. One of the others was by Frances and the other from Joni Mitchell on The Chieftains Tears of Stone Album. 'Seduced' was another song title that managed to remember and Mary had the audience singing along with the chorus to 'Blues Got The World'.

Frances and her band (Jimmy Smyth, Eoghan Scott & Pat Fitzpatrick) quickly took the stage. She opened with 'Wall of Tears'. As I said before, I don't remember the full setlist but the audience particpated with 'This Love Will Carry Me' and I glanced over at our Paul to see his eyes well up when 'Somewhere Over The Rainbow' was delivered. Graham and Jennifer got a mention prior to one of the new songs 'A Foggy Dew' which is due to appear on her forthcoming album and is expected to be released in February. If this song is a foretaste of what is to come, then start queueing outside your music store now.

During the interval we popped in to the bar to say hello and I doubled my Mary Coughlan album collection when I bought 'Long Honeymoon'. We said hello to Frances and she knew Paul's name before I managed to introduce him.

Frances' intro to Sharon Shannon at the start of part 2 mentioned that Sharon's latest album had just reached No.2 in the Irish Album Charts. Congratulations!

Sharon and the spoken word are not the best of mates when she's on stage. Not that we're worried because her music does the talking. She was accompanied by Jim Murray on guitar. To watch him play you'd be convinced that he's got four hands!

After a couple of numbers Eoghan Scott joined her and Jimmy Smyth tagged along a little later. At around midway through her set she announced that Frances & Mary would be joining her for the next tune, The Penguin. They joined her alright! They to-ed and fro-ed penguin style the across the back of the stage. They were joined by the rest of the band members one by one as the tune progressed.

Mary re-appeared to perform a couple of songs and Sharon became one of the backing band. Mary gave a terrific cover of "I'd rather go blind". I wonder what the legendary Stan Webb would thought of the legendary Mary Coughlan's rendition of this classic.

Frances then returned to perform a couple of her own songs, one of which was 'Talk To Me'.

The big finale came when Frances and Mary duetted for Only A Woman's Heart. To think that I've heard this song delivered live 3 times in the space of 3 days in two different countries in two different languages by three different people - the result was the same - total quality.

The 500 strong audience bayed for more and they got it when everyone, including 2 piano players, gave us the extended remix of Bungee Jumpers.

This show was well worth the trip, thanks for the autographs by the way and we'll make sure that all passports are present and correct ASAP.

....and if you're still awake after this - Mark van Setten - it was great to meet you !

Monday, October 17, 2005

Evocative Eleanor Ensures Everyone's Ensuing Ease

Marr's Bar
16th October 2005

It's a mid-October Sunday evening. Time to sit back in a comfy armchair and toast your feet by the fire. Stare into the flames and dream of those heady days of summer and Christmas around the corner.
If you can capture that feeling , then you're not far away from the ambience in the Marr's Bar.
With memories of my last Eleanor experience with the splendid 50 piece RTE Concert Orchestra still fresh in my mind, I was wondering how a conventional Eleanor solo performance would greet me.
No problem at all !
This show had all the warmth of that autumn fire and that little glow from the accompanying glass of brandy.

A quick "Howya doin' ?" , on with the acoustic and Fire Overhead is almost whispered.
"If you're outta luck" is sang unaccompained along with the next line and the song, I'll Be Willing which then floats along a little slower on a soft acoustic backing.
The relaxed style of these openers set the tone for both Eleanor and audience. The Marr's Bar is attended by a music loving clientelle. Appreciation was given and received from both sides of the mike stand.
After You'll Hear Better Songs (Than This)- I do miss that Dublin clarinet! We were treated to a new song, Lovers Chapel, which was co-written by Dave Rotheray and will appear on her next album (exclusive , you heard it here first).
I've never seen Eleanor so laid back and relaxed, nor have I been or the rest of the audience either. All in all it was a pleasant evening. And apart from a little mix up over the name of the sound technician (Sean/Pete - the other guy made her a sound cup of tea !), everything else passed off without a hitch.

A couple more from the set list worth noting. Memphis Tennessee and The Rain Falls on their own are worth the effort of getting out of the house to witness.

Driving Home From Butlers would have sounded even more perfect had they switched the ACU off and Paddy McCarthy's reel used a very "un-trad-arr" wah-wah pedal.

Next stop for Eleanor on the tour - Buxton, my place of birth which is only a couple of miles from where one of her Yola co-writers, Lloyd Cole, used to live - Chapel-en-le-Frith.


Acoustic guitar
1. Fire Overhead
2. I'll be willing
3. You'll hear better songs (than this)
4. Lovers Chapel ( new one)
5. The Rain Falls
6. I got you to see me through

Electric guitar
7. The Way You wear Your Troubles
8. Territory of Poets
9. Ave Maria

Acoustic guitar
10. Days Roll By
11. Memphis Tenessee
12. Only a Woaman's Heart

13. Driving Home From Butlers
14 A "Trad Arr" tune ( new to me)
15. Paddy McCarthy's reel (with the 'fuzz' pedal - Celt-a-dellic)
16. Wrong So Wrong

17.Did you Tell Him
18. Isn't it a Little Late

Encore (Acoustic)
as requested by the audience
19. Whisper A Prayer To The Moon
20. Only A Woman's Heart (Spanish Version)
21. Easy In Love

It would be remiss of me not to mention the support act. A Shropshire Lad called Sam Newth
Step aside please David Gray

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

The Binding Qualities Of Porridge Ties Up The Rs

From hereon, October 4th should be remembered as National Porridge Day. The Rs refer of course to Ronnie Remembered and the Rebel Reverend Ridley.
Ronnie 'Fletch' Barker, former inmate of Slade prison joins the ranks of the dearly departed today. I won't attempt to water down the list of tributes by adding my personal thoughts. Instead, I'll just echo them all and say that his memory will live on in the laughter that he gave to millions.
As for the Rebel Reverend, he is a hero. He was released from prison today after doing porridge for not paying the increase in Council Tax. Politicians of whatever party you represent should hang their heads in shame over this travesty of justice. Reverend Ridley was stitched up by the state from all angles. It cost the taxpayer a damn site more money than what he owed to try him and put him in prison. You give him and the rest of the pensioners a pittance in one hand and rip their arms off by hiking up the Council Tax.
Ronnie Barker wrote some brilliant comedy scripts in his lifetime, but I doubt that he could have ever dreamt up an episode like Reverend Ridley's case.