St. David’s Hall, 18th May 2015
Shortly after 8pm Christy Moore strode on stage at St. David’s Hall, accompanied by his long time collaborator, the legendary Irish guitarist and record producer, Declan Sinnott. They wasted little time on pleasantries, preferring to launch straight into the opening pieces. The huge affection in which the crowd – composed largely, if by no means entirely, of members of the singer’s own generation – held Moore was plain to see from the outset, with whistles and ripples of applause greeting the opening of each song. Accompanied by a percussionist and an excellent backing vocalist, the group created an intimate atmosphere that grew as the night went on, as Moore began to relax and increasingly engage with the audience, thanking them several times for the ‘good vibes’.
A particular highlight of the evening came half way through the set with a three-song tribute to Ewan McColl, whose centenary year this is. Moore began with ‘Go Move Shift’, his famous take on McColl’s ‘Moving On Song’, a work that undoubtedly has a particular relevance under the current government’s Austerity agenda. Certainly Moore delivered lyrics such as,
Born on a common near a building site
Where the ground was rutted by the trailer’s wheels
The local people said to me
“You’ll lower the price of property”
“You can’t stop here”, the policeman said,
“You’d better get born in someplace else…
Move along, get along… Go, Move, Shift!
with a fierce intensity which was matched by a noticeable increase in tempo from his band-mates.
After a delightful version of ‘Sweet Thames Flow Softly’, Moore finished this section by telling us the story behind ‘First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’, the song that McColl wrote for his wife Peggy Seeger while she was away in America. ‘He sang it down the phone to her. She got on the next plane back,’ Moore elaborated before delivering an exquisitely delicate version of the song.
The night began to move with more pace and abandon from this point in, as Moore delved into a selection of some of the more rousing songs in his repertoire such as ‘Don’t Forget Your Shovel’ (another song whose political resonance has sadly not been blunted by time), ‘McIllhatton’ (about a notorious poteen maker) and ‘Delirium Tremens’, an incredibly jolly song considering its autobiographical subject matter (and one which Moore has added an amusing verse about ‘that fecker’ Michael Flately to into the bargain).
The deeply moving, Bobby Sands-penned ‘I Wish I Was Back Home in Derry’ perhaps drew the biggest response from this predominantly Irish crowd, and the evening drew to a close with several beautiful ballads including the hushed, mournful-but-still-lovestruck, ‘Ride On’ and – this writer’s personal favourite – ‘Nancy Spain’, with its disarmingly simple, poignant lyrics about lost love:
In a while I’ll wander, down
By Bluebell Grove where wild flowers grow,
And I hope that lovely Nancy will return
The night ended with two standing ovations and an air of general goodwill towards – and indeed misty-eyed appreciation for – a consummate artist who is now in his seventieth year (not that you’d know it from Moore’s palpable, soulful energy). It was also a timely reminder that art and politics can, do and quite probably should mix. As Moore said before playing the highly political 1986 classic, ‘Ordinary Man’, ‘there were a hell of a lot of good songs written because of Maggie Thatcher’. Here’s hoping that, if nothing else good comes out of his government, we might at least, in thirty years, be able to say the same of David Cameron.
(photo credit requested)