A Celebration for Jens and Cristel at Whelan’s, Dublin on 29 May

On Tuesday evening, Whelan’s main room was taken over by a spectacular line-up of home-grown talent in a celebration for Jens and Cristel, organised by Una Molloy of Turning Pirate.

Jens Uhl and his wife Cristel have been long-term supporters of Irish music and Irish artists. They have provided Irish musicians such as David Kitt, Mick Christopher, The Walls, Lisa Hannigan and The Villagers, with the opportunity and platform to perform across Eastern Europe for the past few decades.

Whelan’s main room is full of chat and anticipation and although a great turn out, it is quickly made very clear that the audience is not familiar with the cause so much as the artists involved. But no matter, each act has a unique tale involving the Uhl’s and their efforts to facilitate and promote Irish music, and they tell them fondly from the stage as the pair look down from their seats on the balcony.

We are told that the €25 cover charge will go towards a new bursary for Irish artists in honour of Jens and Cristel with the hopes to continue their work connecting Irish music and Eastern Europe. Their hard-work and generosity is obvious, as is their sheer love and support for Irish music, which is incredibly humbling and endearing to behold.

After Camille O’Sullivan finishes her set with an a Capella offering of Bowie’s The Port of Amsterdam, the first special guest of the evening is revealed. Richie Egan, of Jape and the Redneck Manifesto, takes to the stage. He thanks Jens and Cristel for the opportunities and memories they have given him before kneeling down and dedicating to them a synthesised, electronic version of Raglan Road.

To the audiences delight, the second special guest comes in the popular and familiar form of BellX1, who quietly deliver gentle, stripped backed versions of Upswing and The End is Nigh. Paul Noonan moves to drums as Dave Geraghty moves to keys and vocals to fulfill the request of Jens and Cristel – Offshore. It’s a wonderfully delicate and quiet performance.

Cathy Davey then explodes on to the stage with her band, filling the room with the tempo, energy and electric sounds of Reuben, Uninsurable and Sing For Your Supper. Her set packs much more of a punch and squashes the intimate feel of the rest of the night.

The energy brought by Cathy was only doubled by the final act as Glen Hansard, accompanied by the rest of The Frames, pay their gratitude to Jens and Cristel. With Seven Day Mile, God Bless Mom, and Your Face adorning their setlist, the audience got something they never expected.

Hansard delivered his usual dynamic and passionate performance made only the more special by the complete band. Revelate is greeted with explosive enthusiasm as everyone is chanting back the lyrics. Glen pulls Stephen James Smith, the increasingly popular wordsmith, on stage to deliver a short poem before finishing up with the wonderfully apt Friends and Foes.

It’s a superb display of Irish talent and a magnificent celebration of the work, commitment and fervour shown by Jens and Cristel for the past 23 years and may their support and enthusiasm for Irish music continue for years to come.

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