By David Hennessy
Frankie Gavin and De Dannan brought the 16th Return to Camden Town festival to a climax when a packed Bentley Room at The Crown on Saturday evening.
Renowned fiddle player Frankie Gavin formed Frankie Gavin and De Dannan in the wake of the 2003 split with his former band, De Dannan. Established since 1975, De Dannan had played with singers Mary Black, Maura O’Connell, Frances Keane and Tommy Fleming.
Saturday was a homecoming gig of sorts for singer Michelle Lally who lived in Cricklewood for a period in the early 90’s. Michelle told The Irish World: “It’s great to be back for Return to Camden. The last time we were here, we played at the Camden Irish Centre and equally just as much fun, a great buzz off the audience. Tonight was no exception, it was just brilliant. It really had us going as well, we feed off that.”
Michelle lived just across the road from the venue when she called Cricklewood home: “I always supported any kind of Irish festival. I always loved the music and wanted to be part of that scene so much but yet was always too shy. To be able to come back to Cricklewood now and do concerts like this.. I know exactly what it is to be an emigrant, I lived here and I lived in America and just that little piece of home, your culture, is so important and more than anything I think music and song is so important to people. It shows.
“There’s such a huge Irish community over here and it’s great to see that kind of support for Irish music. People want that little piece of home. I lived here. I know what it’s like to have something from home and to see people up on their feet dancing at the end of the night and enjoying themselves, that’s what it’s about. That make it all worthwhile.”
Frankie Gavin has recorded with big names such as Rolling Stones, Elvis Costello and Frankie Goes to Hollywood. He is in the Guinness Book of Records fore being the fastest fiddle player in the world. He entertained the Cricklewood crowd not just with music but also some of his jokes and stories.
After the gig, Frankie said: “We had a ball tonight. The line-up of the band now, this is the happiest team that I’ve ever worked with. We always had a great happy team but as you get older, I think I appreciate playing more, I think I appreciate playing with the current line-up more than anything before. We had a ball.”
Of the Return to Camden crowd, Frankie said: “They know their music. Everyone here knows their stuff and you can have young and old watching every move. It’s great, it’s very respectful and it’s honour.”
Among the crowd was musician Paddy Gallagher: “We were great friends and played together many years ago. It was great to see him here with his wife and lovely girls. It was a pleasure to see all of them. It’s really nostalgic for me and I’m overwhelmed.”
It was Paddy Gallagher’s daughter who put on an impromptu Irish dancing display towards the end of the gig, to the crowd’s delight: “The audience made it very easy for us to enjoy ourselves and there’s times when the audience is behind you, you couldn’t make a mistake if you wanted to.”
Support came from Peter Coughlan, well known from London Irish band Hungry Grass. Peter performed at the Royal Albert Hall to celebrate the state visit when he filled the huge arena with his un-amplified voice. He dedicated a haunting Raglan Road to his “mate” Michael D Higgins and finished off his set with a beautiful a capella version of Rolling Down to Old Maui.