The London Fleadh, 10 June 2000
While Paddy McAloon and Prefab Sprout were taking over the main stage, an unassuming Irishman seated himself at his keyboards on the stage of the Irish Post Marquee at the London Fleadh. What ensued was a 45-minute journey through the world of Cathal Coughlan. The enigmatic Corkonian has long since left behind his Microdisney days, which in turn evolved into the Fatima Mansions. These days he has finally arrived at what sounds like some of his finest work.
John Peel once said that he could listen to Cathal Coughlan singing the telephone directory, which is unsurprising, as his voice is truly remarkable. The material on his latest album 'Black River Falls' further demonstrates his vocal diversity. From the haunting title track, to the rasping tale of Frogface and Buster in "The Ghost of Limehouse Cut", Coughlan can sound achingly tender to sinisterly intense.
Despite the fact that it was 4.30 in the afternoon, there was a respectable crowd in attendance who were treated mainly to newer, solo material. The Corkman regaled the crowd with a lively version of "Bertie's Brochures" and other Mansions classics such as "Behind the Moon" and "You Won't Get me Home". "Whitechapel Mound", one of the best tracks on the album comes off brilliantly in the late afternoon sun, with its carnivalesque guitars and jazzy bass.
In the past, Coughlan was very much the frontman, albeit in an unpretentious way, but sitting at the keyboards he seems more relaxed as band-member than bandleader. On the whole it was an excellent performance, even if was early in the day, even if there weren't enough people there and even if it was all over in under an hour.
As for 'Black River Falls', it's a hugely impressive collection of songs best seen live. If however you missed Cathal Coughlan's recent Vicar Street gig, do yourself a favour and buy it today.
Check out a review of Cathal Coughlan live in Wicklow in 2007.