The CLUAS Archive: 1998 - 2011


Duke Special's show at the Nouveau Casino in Paris on 9 May was extraordinary - a resounding success. We can base this on empirical data: wild cheering, a second encore, the hungry queue to buy CDs after the show. But ultimately it's the emotional evidence that seals the verdict: the heart-thumping, soul-soaring, head-spinning, blood-rushing thrill that makes you want to go home and make your own music so that you could possibly move people in the same way.

In her review of the Duke's Dublin show in March, CLUAS's Anna Murray accurately lauded Peter Wilson's "entire package of performance, affecting honesty and offbeat entertainment that leaves you amazed in its wake". Is there anything finer in Irish pop today than the climax of 'Freewheel', when Wilson builds up power ("come on, come on, come on...") and then simply takes off with a soaring cry of "my soul"? At that moment in Paris last night people cheered, embraced and quite a lot seemed to get dust in their eye. The bare words in cold print just can't do justice to the feeling.  

There were three of them, all in 19th-century vibe - the Duke and drummer Temperance Society Chip Bailey dressed in cavalry jackets like stragglers from the Charge Of The Light Brigade, while Rea Curran on trumpet, accordion and backing vocals modelled the tweed-jacket and bushy-red-beard-with-no-moustache combination of a Punch caricature of a belligerent Irish peasant. Their show had the fresh quirkiness of a music hall act - especially the Harpo Marx-esque Bailey, switching between drums, cheese-grater and an indescribable hurdy-gurdy pole adorned with bells and shakers.

Even as they simply stood on stage, lit by chandeliers in this intimate Paris back-room, they were strange and thrilling to behold. Before each song Wilson stood wild-eyed like some Dickensian parlour-conjurer above his keyboard-draped-in-red-velvet, as if he were about to levitate Lilly Langtry or hypnotise a lord.

The eminent Victorians were joined for a few French verses of 'Portrait' by the wonderful Emily Loizeau, whose magical 2006 album 'L'Autre Bout Du Monde' shares much of Wilson's approach to melodic and heartfelt piano-pop.

Most of the highlights off 'Songs From The Deep Forest' got a play although, such is the abundance of jewels at Wilson's disposal, there was no room for the poignant 'This Could Be My Last Day'. But at least he sang our favourite lyric from 'Salvation Tambourine': "I could go to Paris, I could jump from the Tyre". A reference, of course, to every Belfastman's favourite pneumatic Parisian monument, the Eiffel Tyre. New song 'Careless Heart' (last night a stripped-down piano ballad, tomorrow night probably a revivalist gospel psalm) promises well for more brilliant material from Wilson in the future.

However, he has already fulfilled all of our great expectations.

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Nuggets from our archive

2003 - Witnness 2003, a comprehensive review by Brian Kelly of the 2 days of what transpired to be the last ever Witnness festival (in 2004 it was rebranded as Oxegen when Heineken stepped into the sponsor shoes).