Review of his gig in Whelan's, 25.5.99
An attempt to start the evening with a few quiet ones in the bar was soon scuppered by having to listen to Fat Boy Slim. Not a perfect prelude to one of Ireland's finest singer/songwriters!
Shuffling along the wall to get into the venue revealed the usual mix of old and young, Irish and 'miscellaneous' that Andy attracts. Inside people chatted along the bar while others raced for the 'good' seats closer to the stage. While Whelan's is a nice, snug venue for a performer such as Andy Irvine, the tight seating immediately in front of the stage makes the stools at the back provide a more sensible and equally advantageous view - as well as being closer to the bar...
Andy came on in his usual non-chalant and unassuming way and immediately started a song he told us needed no introduction as the words told their own story. It was a Scottish song he had come across on his travels. This, and the next few songs, were accompanied by his blinding fingerwork on his eight-stringed guitar. An unusual instrument which seemed like a hybrid of guitar and bouzouki. He told us of his time living in a forest near Ljubljana and sang "Baneasa's green forest". With quick references to "Sweeney's Men" he gave us his ode to Willie Clancy - "My heart tonight's in Ireland".
The songs, interestingly enough, that lit up the audience, were his two unaccompanied offerings - "The king of Ballyhooley" and "The man who would kill a dog". Two fast, humourous (and long) songs that had everyone listening to hear every word with anticipation for the final, hilarious outcome.
Eventually picking up his mandolin, his virtuoso playing of it encouraged rapturous applause, song after song. The night was ended with his telling us that with Planxty he used to begin gigs with "The Blacksmith" and it still made him feel odd actually ending a gig with it. But, end with it he did and with no encore he finished another night in Whelan's. For those who could not resist Bruce in the RDS, I recommend you treat yourself the next time Andy's in town. For £7 how could you not?
Check out our other articles on theIrish Folk Music Scene.