Bluesdoodles took the night off from blues rock americana and went back to the music that has inspired and informed Country and Americana – Irish Folk Music…with a fantastic double billing of Mary Black & Clannad
Mary Black instantly connected with the packed St David’s Hall audience with her easy charm, beautiful vocals and backing band that played to maximise the joy of the music. Eric Bogle wrote anti-war song All The Fine Young Men , which her great friend Dolores Keane originally sang. Mary, set the scene between songs with background and personal connections to the song she was going to play with a set full of narrative driven ballads, lilting folk tunes or more lively dance beat tempo songs of polkas and waltzes. Mary Black and her band provided a warm opening act for Clannad and though her voice may be husky and deeper now, she is still a presence on the stage enthralling and lets every song tell the story and portrays the emotions with the addition of instrumentals provided by Sax and guitar that empathise and add depth of tone and layers of interest. Mary Black’s departure from the live music scene will leave a gap that will be hard to fill. For me the highlight of the evening was Song For Ireland, with all its poignancy that shows music has been the heart and soul of this nation through hard times.
Clannad opened with a sparkling array of tracks from their latest album “Nádúr”/strong> – nature. The track Rhapsody of Trees was superb full of lush musical phrasing and took you deep into the mysteries of the forest. Harp and vocalist centre stage in perfect harmony with keys bass guitars and drum adding gentle layers and hidden depths in this complex tapestry of musicality held St Davids Hall enthralled… The music was other worldly from the land of mist and faerie a welcomed oasis of peace and harmony contrasting with the toil and grind of our everyday worlds. Gaellic mother tongue from Donegal, Nancy of a Thousand Loves; you do not need to understand the language to instantly recognise this is a melody of love; full of emotion and tension this is not carefree or careless love but yearning deep love.
The lighting fitted the songs adding to the theatre of sound and visuals. The drums off centre to the far left of the stage meant the rhythms were heard as if from afar giving a tonal texture that is distinctively Clannad . Despite having three keyboards on stage at times all played together they never dominated it was always the superb clear soprano that drove lyrics and melody… as in theme tune from Last of The Mohicans, the Robin Hood medley of songs the hooded man, green man, Maid Marion etc.. now in the heart of England amidst the shady glades of Sherwood Forest. Flute harp & double bass creating the texture of sound with percussive drumming holding the rhythm together. The tempo changed with the focus on instrumentation guitars dominant drums and penny whistle as the lyrics and tune became more assertive. For Maid Marion a more feminine gentler tone as the harp and voice gently took control with harmonising keys and flute. The change again with duet male (flautist) and female… clever medley always moving forward… then a dance melody with flitting strobes a string sound full of drive and energy.
Then the expected and heard a much-loved Clannad classic the theme to Harry’s Game, which won Ivor Novello prize. Tonight was the first gig where a song about seaweed, Donegal and Sushi, with words and music that slips and slides all over the place… Sung in the main by the bass player the male voice taking the dominate role gave a harsher more urgent tonal quality to the sound. Each instrument given a moment under the spot light some fab keyboard and double bass solo’s and ending the solos interesting drumming then they all joined in to bring the house down with a storm.. This track almost felt like a jam; giving controlled freedom that a family that has played together knows and understands each other’s playing style.
Mary Black and her band plus Clannad came back for encore drinking song in Gaellic from Donegal this was the free-style folk, we all wanted to stay at the party.. as they left the stage and sent us into the night with feet tapping and smiles on the our faces… as they left the world of harmonies and stepped out into the night and reality.