A few strange things happened this week. Vertigo took over my life. Spinning, swaying and being a general pain to live with, I had a smaller version of the George Bailey experience. Instead of seeing what life was like without me, I saw what life was like without balance and with a perennial nausea. Experiencing normality again makes me want to run, bounding and ungraceful as George, arms wildly flailing through a snowing Bedford Falls bellowing a joyful Merry Christmas to all I encounter.
Storm Donal became Storm Eleanor. Strangely, the country didn’t shut down for what felt like a worse storm than How to Hygge with Ophelia and Children. During this storm, and just on the outside cusp of island living through to illness, we went to watch Christy Moore live.
I drank some cider and quite enjoyed it. First time in almost twenty years. True story. This might be Christy Moore’s fault. Johnny Jump Up I think he called it. Today is the first day since a pre-Santa era that I feel head-sure. Not holding furniture. Not catching up with my eyes when I turn my head. Not like a cartoon character. Today I can write about seeing Christy live in Dublin.
The gig tickets were a birthday present for Mr Paper, a long time fan of Moore. I hold memories of Mr Paper singing Ride On from many years ago, before we became a Papery couple even. Choosing Dublin as the venue was brave as we are becoming more and more cemented into a subded Irish midlands’ social life, aiming for bed by ten almost daily. Luckily, Mr Paper has a very accommodating sister who put us up and minded the girls for the evening. She lives in Kildare. We were assured of warmth and safety upon our return so we braced the elements and faced the prospect of having fun in an urban setting.
The evening was typically January, strong and stormy. An extra element of risk was added by the yellow storm warning that Storm Eleanor initiated. Sustenance was required, more as a want than a need, so we selected a watering hole near the venue. I had Lipstick Destroyers (wings of course) and a delicious beverage called a Pink Lady.
Having eaten at The Bull and Castle, lipstick re-applied (in my case), we climbed our way past the Guinness storehouse, glimpsing the more gothic side of Dublin in the church towers and made a foolhardy choice to pause for a picture that surprised me by how it turned out.
To me, Vicar Street as a venue is synonymous with the best of the best musically and comically. This is due to how much radio I listen to however, and I have never actually been to a Vicar Street gig. I didn’t expect it to be as it was.
I purchased seats at a table, thinking comfort for us fragile former socialites might be important. Seats are tiny stools in banks of four, bolted to the floor around one of those tiny circular bar tables. These filled quickly. You need to become friendly with your neighbours fast here as you are in closer proximity with them at times than you might be with your doctor. All part of the atmosphere…I was just glad we had the outside, aisle stools at our table.
The crowd were my parents. My parents’ peers. Groups of men my husband’s age and a few couples like ourselves probably pulling the same gameplay. I spotted one boy, a young tween, maybe with either a dad or an uncle. Seated early, this was clearly a bonding treat someone had organised. I feel the audience tells you about the performer. This was to be an intimate show, more a performance than a session, and this seasoned crowd knew the rules. I observed the changing times of technology. Younger people are more socially conscious with their mobile (cell phone) at a gig, not filming or letting a badly obscured screen light irritate another person. It is the men my father’s age getting rapped over the knuckles from security for filming a beautifully plaintive version of Nancy Spain less than discreetly on their flip phone. I watched one 60 + woman tell-tale on the men in front of her, 6 ft plus, at least fifty, he gleefully filmed on an ancient mobile only for Bossy Boots to have him stopped. Chastened like a schoolboy, he put it away but we all knew he would have another crack at it later. The classroom is everywhere.
Phones and flash photography were banned. Thankfully. No movement during songs encouraged. This well trained Christy audience knew that you ran to the loo as soon as a song ended and you returned between songs too. Lines of people would throng back between ballads, elbowing to their toadstool, fearful of missing the Moore magic and I marvelled at how this man managed to get his audience to behave so well. Job lost in him as a school principal.
The theatre bar was shut during the show. Hence the bulk buying pre-performance. The gig was two hours with no interval. Despite singing so much about alcohol, this was a show very much focused on not allowing drinking to overtake the music. Respect. This does not mean people didn’t drink. They just prepared well.
There was no warm up act and one was not required as I was riveted by the amount people can buy to drink in twenty minutes. Pints and bottles, spirits and mixers, the plastic glasses kept coming. Not a young crowd as I said, but determined not to go dry during the gig. I spotted one set of possible pensioners line up the brandy and gingers just as Mr Paper succumbed and that is how we had ciders. Or Cidre –no Devil’s Bit for us, thank you very much.
I had heard much of the Beyoncé style activities of Christy. Telling people to shut up. Silencing people who sing along. Getting agitated with the audience and I was ready for that. I wondered about how he might appear. The guy must be getting on. I remember seeing Tom Jones and Bob Dylan on stage at various times and they barely looked how I imagined they should. Moore surprised me. He looked himself. Better even. Grand and relaxed. Healthy and happy.
The gig started sharp to the time. Moore and his three accompaniments arrived and played. Just like that, they swooped on stage like a court of musical crows on bread and it began.
And it was wonderful.
From the classics Smoke and Strong Whiskey, Black is the Colour or The Voyage to the comically witty satires of Joxer goes to Stuttgart or the more recent scathing genius of Lingo Politico I Hate Politicians; the audience were enraptured. Moore made witty remarks in between. Self-deprecating comments about a mouth piece he was trying out that made us chuckle. Dry statements that won hysterical laughter from (mostly) men who truly love this man. I liked his style. He had me at not saying hello.
References to Luka Bloom (Moore’s brother) being in the audience made me hop with joy- I had nearly worn out a CD out in college listening to him. The crowd nearly lost the run of themselves when Moore tributed another prominent audience member in attendance with his family- Gay Byrne. Come on. You couldn’t make this stuff up. I was living in stereotype and bloody loving it. As I have said, you go to see someone play and have expectations of how they will be. You often will be disappointed. Not here. Christy Moore at Vicar Street was more Christy Moore at Vicar Street than I could have imagined. He was better than that ‘he’.
Christy Moore is also the most audience aware performer I have ever watched. He is keenly observant and I can imagine he is very conscious of the people listening to him. I can imagine he could say anything to the audience yet I do not doubt his professionalism. True artists throw out requests to the floor and can play them flawlessly and this gave us Blue Rose, The Raggle-Taggle Gyspsy-O, ending on a roof busting version of Lisdoonvarna with all the Christy-isms. I enjoy Christy Moore music but don’t think I am someone always tuned in to Lisdoonvarna, far from it. This was a great laugh though and just played massively well. Jimmy Higgins on percussion was the younger face who added a mighty finale to the final song. Cathal Hayden both on fiddle and banjo provides the skill of a true talent and it was even more entertaining and atmospheric to have Declan Sinnott playing and harmonizing with Christy as I can imagine they have been doing so for decades. Sinnott’s expressions tell you everything and this man loves what he does. As a team, they are marvellous troubadours.
The crowd that Christy draws will pack into barely-there chairs and happily take on the potential aura of armpit or the olfactory hell of Guinness based flatulence for the love of this bard. Moore will manage this by not encouraging an audience to imbibe heavily. They will laugh if he makes a mistake. They will stare in worship as he croons much loved tunes. He is their Kildare god.
And I can see why.
We will either return to see Moore soon or spend the next ten years talking about it. This show’s reputation can only grow. Class act.