Christy Moore and Declan Sinnott a/t Vicar Street, Dublin Tuesday 11th of December 2012
There’s something unique about the Irish experience. It’s probably the same for every other nationality, I can’t say, but it seems that our history is written into our genes and it comes out in all aspects of our culture. Stories of famine, emigration, British oppression and Ray Houghton pervade the land and somehow tie together a drunken night in Dublin and looking out to the Atlantic from the cliffs of Clare. Nobody encapsulates this better than Christy Moore. He sings songs, not all his own, that tell of all the key points of Irishness, all the while referring to audience members as “Horse”, asking “How’s she cutting’?” and taking requests.
He may have annoyed a few people recently, saying that we’re a country of “shit-takers”, but when he and Declan Sinnott enter the Vicar Street stage – their spiritual home – just after eight on Tuesday, the cheers are joyful and respectful. And then, when this bald man, who looks like he’s just walked off a building site, and his friend, a long-haired hippy, start to play and the room besides is silent.
The silence is almost eerie as the seated Moore and Sinnott play their opening songs. It’s clear from the outset that Moore is the leader of the two but, in fairness to Sinnott, he reads every subtle sign from Moore to add beautiful instrumental flourishes to Moore’s vocals, which sound in as good a state as ever. His face occasionally looks strained and twisted, but his vocals, at 67, are still as pure as the driven snow.
There is a powerful sense sombreness in the opening songs, as Moore sings of the likes of nuclear war (Hiroshima, Nagasaki Russian Roullette) and the Stardust disaster (They Never Came Home). When Moore forgets the final verse on the latter, and the following songs Beeswing, it looks like the show is going to slide away from him. He recovers it perfectly though with Nancy Spain, during which the crowd sings along in low, hushed tones.
It’s a sound that repeats in the show. The audience join in the with some of the vocals on North and South, Back Home in Derry and the spine-tingling Ride On, but are rarely louder that deep whisper. It’s as though these songs are so cherished that they must be handled with upmost care so they’re not damaged.
The same can’t be said of the raucous Joxer Goes to Stuttgart. That song, which underwent a renaissance earlier this year, gets Vicar Street clapping and singing along. And then, of course, there is the massive cheer at the end. “Never was a goal so celebrated 24 years after it was scored,” Moore comments as the song ends.
As well as the emotion, both high and low, Moore weaves storytelling – he intersperses verses of Don’t Forget Your Shovel with stories about Christy Hennessy, its writer – and social commentary. On the Ballad of Ruby Walsh he talks about Fingleton and FitzPartick’s business deals, while on Casey he talks about Eamon Casey and Martin Cleary as “Jockeys who could ride for Ireland while preaching us morality.”
Moore exits the stage for two songs, leaving it to Sinnott and Vicky Keating, who enters the stage for a few songs. This is taken by most to be the intermission as they leave for the bar or toilet. It also proves the only time in the evening that the show lags. It’s a tribute to Moore’s magnetism that it picks up again once he returns singing famine song The City of Chicago.
An encore of Finglas Boys and Black is the Colour ends the show on a contrasting high, yet downbeat tone. It is a triumph of an evening and enough to answer the question of how Moore and Sinnott constantly sell out shows in all parts of the country (and tickets are never cheap!). It’s something that should be seen by everyone: a thoroughly Irish experience.