Christy Moore at the Royal Festival Hall
By Fiona O’Brien
No gimmicks. Full house lights. And four master musicians playing and singing moving and witty songs.
Christy Moore and his guitarist Declan Sinnott have been honing their partnership over the past three decades and it tells, but Aaron Fitzsimon on percussion and David Magee on fiddle were equally as terrific live performers to bring Moore’s ‘orchestra’ together.
Moore, whose voice is as good as ever at the age of 72, barely dipped into his more recent collection of songs except for a version of On Morecombe Bay, Kevin Littlewood’s haunting song about the death of 23 Chinese men and women on the cockle beds of an English seaside resort.
Old songs were dusted off and the rarely-performed Easter Snow, a song triggered by an audience member’s request the night before, was sublime, with Moore joking that he had to phone home and get his wife to play the old vinyl version down the phone to him to prompt his memory.
And it is with that anecdote that the Moore’s encyclopaedic musical knowledge is further highlighted. Imagine to have a back catalogue so vast and full of quality that you could forget your own song-writing.
And this topped by cover versions of songs by Jimmy McNeill, Woodie Guthrie and Shane MaGowan, all with their own introduction and story, but not too much as to take away from the two-hour uninterrupted song-after-song show.
There were appropriate nods to the great songwriters of yesteryear: the southbank setting was perfect for Ewan MacColl’s Sweet Thames, Flow Softly. And, as previously mentioned Guthrie was saluted with a version of Sacco and Vanzetti.
So into the flow on the Festival Hall stage was Moore that he later was prompted to perform Guthrie’s Renegade, just because ‘it felt like it suited the previous song better’. Moore also tipped a nod to Nic Jones as the singer he first heard performing the intricate old ballad Little Musgrave.
Although the Festival Hall stage is a big one for just four performers (“this great old room”, said Moore) the stage was adroitly lit and changed for the mood of songs.
Moore did some of his powerful social songs – Burning Times, Ordinary Man – but the overriding mood was of fun. Moore knows how to handle a crowd.
The jovial football song Joxer Goes To Stuttgart was sung to a request from a football team who had attended the night before and got the crowd roaring and singing along.
The whole crowd joined in lusty singalong- versions of City of Chicago, Ride On, Cliffs of Doneen and at the encore, the crowd-pleasing Lisdoonvarna.
Moore also gave a rare outing to his drinking song Delirium Tremens, having been persuaded to revive it last week by “a persistent man of the cloth in the front row in Cardiff”.
To complete the fun, there was also a rousing version of Christy Hennessy’s Don’t Forget Your Shovel, a wry song about the experience of the Irish in 1960s England.
He finished the main session with McGowan’s Fairytale of New York, with each and every lyric getting Moore’s trademark heart behind it, as he interrupted a verse to speak of his and the Pogues’ frontman’s own Stephen’s Day experience in a pub one Christmas.
And then the encore included a haunting version of Spancil Hill before he launched into a rip-roaring Lisdoonvarna, complete with Boris Johnson quips, to the delight of the audience.