MARY COUGHLAN, FRANCES BLACK & SHARON SHANNON
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 !