Thursday 29th June 2006
All the Frances Black concerts that I’ve attended to date have started with Stranger On The Shore and finished with You’ve Got A Friend. After all this time, the penny dropped. We meet as strangers and depart as friends.
A simple approach really, but it works because that was what this particular evening was - a meeting of friends.
A new album was on release to accompany her tour. This Love Will Carry is a double album containing many favourites from the past 12 years or so.
And as we’re not strangers any more, then there’s no need for Strangers on the Shore for openers, Instead we called up our old friends from the days of Arcady in the form of a brilliant delivery of I’d Cross The Wild Atlantic. Bass guitarist, Eoghan Scott, flexed his versatility muscles with a haunting keyboard intro and Gerry O’Connor weaving mystic violin patterns throughout.
And just as I was thinking how Frances takes to the ‘Trad Arr’ songs like a duck takes to water, we were back with the familiar setlist. Again, I wish I had made notes, but this was the Lowry, proper stage lighting and darkened auditorium meant that I couldn’t see even if I brought my pen..
As for stage lighting, red uplights against a big blue curtain at the back of the stage for most of the time, except for Rathlin Island. It was about the third song in and it is dedicated to the memory of her father, who she said had lovely icy blue eyes. He used to take the family back to Rathlin , his birthplace, for holidays. Upon return to Dublin , Frances was convinced there was a certain sadness in those eyes – and there’s a line in the song ”Cast a blue eye, back to Rathlin”. You can guess the colour of the lighting.
Time was also put aside for the memory of her dear mum, Patti. Although on this occasion, instead of Somewhere Over The Rainbow, Frances sang an unaccompanied music hall song which her mum used to sing – title escapes me – but it’s about a girl who brought her boyfriend home and he left her for her mother !
Frances encourages the audience to sing along as the show progresses and we closed the first half by joining in with the chorus of This Love Will Carry . The interval left us mulling over a request to join her on stage for that Ronan Keating number in the second half.
First song of part two started with another ‘Trad Arr’. Another Black family musical link with The Corrs. (Her sister Mary sang No Frontiers in Liverpool last month). This time it was Foggy Dew, which leaves the The Corrs version off their Home album for dead.
When You Say Nothing At All saw seven volunteers on stage to assist Frances. I’ll just say that harmony prevailed, although not necessarily in a musical sense.
Overall it was a really well balanced set. As well as the ‘Trad Arrs’ mixed in with the standard Frances set there were a couple of pop classics in the form of Gabrielle’s Rise and Bill Withers’ Lean On Me and even some jigs and reels seeing Frances on the bodhran.
There was even a "Happy Birthday to You" sang by everyone present for Jimmy Smyth. I think he was 22.
Yours truly got a mention in the encore. I don’t remember telling her that we were going to the concert, but she knew somehow…….I just thought to myself , "Ain’t it good to know , you’ve got a friend"
Frances Black - Vocals
Gerry O'Connor - Violin /Mandolin
Eoghan Scott - Bass Guitar / occasional keyboards
Peter McKinney - Drums
Jimmy Smyth - Accoustic Guitar