Marc Cohn at Vicar Street, Dublin on 23rd August 2017

It’s been more than 25 years since Marc Cohn played live in Ireland and he’s very sorry. He brings it up on numerous occasions throughout his Vicar Street show last Wednesday night but it’s doubtful anyone there was looking for an apology. For a guy who was shot in the head at point blank range his memory is surprisingly good as he recalls taking a helicopter straight from that Dublin show over the green fields to Semple Stadium for Féile. That year, 1991, was also the year that he released his platinum-selling, self-titled debut – an album whose heights he never quite managed to scale again.

Given how long people have been waiting for this show it’s perhaps no surprise that this is one of the most respectful audiences that Vicar Street has ever seen. Whether during the quieter acoustic moments or during one of his many stories, you would hear a proverbial pin drop. The fact that his voice still sounds more or less as it did in 1991 plays a part in this, as does is likeable, self-deprecating rapport with the audience.

It’s not a sell-out show at Vicar Street, which is a tad surprising given the limited capacity of fully seated shows there. Fair to say that among those that did attend, while there are no doubt some diehards who have bought all his albums since those heady days of 1991, a lot of people are there to hear songs from that debut album and Mr Cohn doesn’t disappoint. Ghost Train, Dig Down Deep and Perfect Love all feature early on. The latter, Cohn explains, was written for his older brother and his wife. “If you put both my marriages together and multiplied by three, it still wouldn’t be as long as theirs”, he notes with a wry smile.

The rock ’n roll boogie of 29 Ways picks up the pace, and the rarely-aired Listening to Levon, from the hard-to-find album ‘Join the Parade’, gets an outing too. The better known tracks such as Silver Thunderbird fall into an extended, if controlled, jam, allowing his touring musicians to cut loose. A percussionist and organ/keyboard player are his total accompaniment on an unadorned stage – fitting for a purveyor of simple but effective songs.

Towards the latter end of the set he starts taking requests from the audience, saying it’s been so long he doesn’t want anyone to go home disappointed. His intro to Walking in Memphis is his most interesting as he reveals the background to the various characters in that song, such as Reverend Green and Muriel, on his voyage to find his songwriting voice in the titular city.

Although a relatively short set, it doesn’t feel that way. As he leaves the stage he promises not to leave it so long the next time. Given that most of the audience would likely be physically incapacitated or dead in another 25 years you would hope he keeps his word.

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