WHAT: The Dubliners: The Dublin Experience
WHERE: Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham
WHEN: 15 March 2011
You can’t fall in love with traditional Irish music without coming across the Dubliners sooner or later. I wasn’t more keen on them than any other group to start with when I started to explore the genre, but then I came across their Live in Carré (Amsterdam) album and a whole new world opened. Not only was the music great, the banter between the songs was great fun to listen to and the whole atmosphere just blew me away. Needless to say, ever since I’ve had a hankerin’ to see them perform on stage.
Just before Christmas last year, I was looking around the various venues in Nottingham to see if there was anything suitable to spring on the Squeeze for a chrimbo present, and lo and behold, the Dubliners. Squeeee! I quickly asked him if he fancied going to see them or if I was going alone, “because I am going!”, he replied that he wouldn’t mind tagging along. Sorted! Found a couple of comedy shows to give him tickets to at the Playhouse as well. 😉
So, two days before St. Patrick’s Day, it was finally time to go to the Royal Concert Hall. Anxiously, I asked the Squeeze if he had any cash on him, as I rarely carry more than a couple of quid. He reassured me that he did and wondered why. “In case of merchandise,” I replied, as even though we don’t tend to buy the merchandise going to gigs, this could be an exception. And it was. They had on offer t-shirts, CDs, DVDs and songbooks and a few more. I instantly reached for the two songbooks and couldn’t decide which one I preferred, so we got both of them. At £15 each, they weren’t cheap … but ohh, to have a couple of books full of song lyrics (and sheet music, but I can only kind of play the piano – a lot less than Jane Eyre could, I hasten to add! – and I haven’t even got a piano here), it would be a dream.
The current line-up consists of Barney McKenna, John Sheahan, Seán Cannon, Eamonn Campbell and Patsy Watchorn. Barney is the only remaining founding member, as Ciaran Bourke, Luke Kelly and Ronnie Drew are sadly no longer with us. Eamonn is the youngest member (born in 1946), and they made a joke about him being young, and even younger than St. Patrick’s Cathedral. They are quite old, though. Barney was led on and off the stage by an assistant and you can tell age is starting to take its toll. Still, there’s plenty of music still left in all of them, and for that, we are grateful.
Between the jokes (I think my favourite of the “Barneyisms” was that he’d try to speak slowly so that people could understand him – or they could just learn to listen quicker!) and the story-telling, there was lots of wonderful music played by a group of very talented musicians. They could’ve done with turning the bodhrán microphone up a bit, because when it was played, it got lost, and my thoughts went to my sound media teacher in school, who used to say that when you’re mixing a band, the drumkit needs to be a bit louder than you at first think is necessary, because otherwise – it gets lost.
The first part, there were a lot of songs I either didn’t know or didn’t really know enough to sing along, so that was a little disappointing. The second half was nearly only songs I knew, and I joined in heartily, as did the rest of the audience, singing and clapping. Among the songs sung were Seven Drunken Nights (only the first five verses), Dirty Old Town, Peggy Lettermore, Poor Paddy Works On The Railway, The Black Velvet Band, The Auld Triangle, I’m A Man You Don’t Meet Every Day (a Scottish song, apparently), Rocky Road To Dublin and a bunch of others. The last song was “a song by Metallica” (Whiskey In The Jar) and was greeted with loud cheers and everyone singing along. As an encore, they did The Wild Rover (no surprise there!) and Molly Malone. None of my so favoured rebel songs were played, but apparently they sort of stopped playing them at concerts in the late 1960s when the Troubles begun in Northern Ireland. Oh well.
They also did a couple of really touching things during the evening’s performance: they paid tribute to Luke Kelly and Ronnie Drew by John reading out a couple of poems. I had read previously that Luke Kelly passed away quite a few years ago, but I was unaware that Ronnie Drew, the man with the very characteristic voice that most of us has come to associate with The Dubliners, had passed away too, only about 2½ years ago. Both readings were followed by big rounds of well-earned applause.
Next year, The Dubliners will celebrate their 50th anniversary (only Barney and John have been with the band that long) and hopefully will be back in town. I’d love to see them again. Such a wonderful atmosphere and such talented musicians. Just a shame we weren’t all tucked away in a nice Dublin pub listening to them! That would have made a great evening even better.