Christy Moore in stupendous form during a Theatre Royal gig.
Timmy Ryan’s weekly column for the Waterford News & Star
THE place was buzzing with anticipation and the crowds arrived early to get the best seats. The age profile was varied and it was obvious from the start that this was going to be a really good gig. The venue was the famed Katie Reilly’s on the Tramore Road and the performer in question was the legendary Christy Moore. Back in the 80’s it seemed almost incomprehensible that here in Ireland, nobody attending the concert was allowed to go to the bar while Christy was on stage and drinks had to be purchased prior to the show kicking off. I remember vividly the scores of patrons loading up pints and assorted drinks on trays at the bar and carefully nursing them back to their chosen tables.
Thinking about it now, what a masterstroke from an artist to demand full concentration from the audience. Mind you, Christy Moore was about the only star I can think of that would have had the nerve and the clout to carry off such an audacious request. One thing for sure, the gig was a huge success, his songs received the attention they deserved and you could have heard a pin drop practically all the way through the set as the storyteller supreme had the crowd in the palm of his hands. That’s real star power.
‘Now, as part of some pilot events nationwide, the bard was back playing to an audience of 200 with tickets sold out in less than four minutes’
Decades on and I was interested to hear about a test case show featuring Christy Moore and a number of other artists, held recently at Killarney’s INEC. Christy had been scheduled to perform there last year but Covid-19 put paid to that. Now, as part of some pilot events nationwide, the bard was back playing to an audience of 200 with tickets sold out in less than four minutes apparently.
“I’ve been on the road since 1966 but this is the most important gig of my life,” Christy Moore told us as he settled down in Killarney’s INEC on Saturday night.
Adhering to certain restrictions, the aim obviously was to see how this sort of show could be staged safely and with no fallout for public health. Punters blessed enough to be able to attend were assigned pods, arrival was on a staggered basis with the ever present masks required entering and leaving the venue. They also were part of a survey taken and each attendee had to have their smartphone switched on to show that they had the HSE Covid app installed. No doubt we’ll hear more of the experiment and hopefully it passes muster and bodes well for bringing gigs back to life as soon as possible for all of us. Christy must have been a tad anxious on how the whole thing would go off as he claimed it was the most important gig of his life. A bold statement indeed considering he’s been in the game since 1966.
Watching early performances of Christy as a folk singer showed he still had a way to go in my opinion, but boy did he hone his craft in the subsequent years. From gigging in England to Planxty, a spell with the brilliant Moving Hearts to his amazing body of solo material, he became a major artist who commanded the ability to pack out venues, often for multiple nights, such was his popularity. The amusing and downright quirky ditties like ‘Messenger Boy’ and ‘Delerium Tremens’, to the compelling and poignant songs of heartbreak and loneliness like ‘They Never Came Home’. Portraying the awful Stardust Nightclub tragedy and ‘Back Home In Derry’ made him a legend but without doubt it’s on stage that he really comes into his own as a performer.
Recently I heard Christy on a radio interview. It was great to hear how relaxed he was and how open he is talking about his life at the moment and the history of his career. It’s great to see him so passionate about music still. I was fascinated to hear that he’s still collecting folk songs and scores of unsolicited songs are constantly sent to him. Some via post, some given to family members for Christy on the streets. I’ve no doubt that many of these “songwriters” enjoy the dream that the great Christy Moore might just record their song bringing a nice monetary reward. Interestingly, he said that he often, with great enjoyment, hums songs and tunes that he has no intention of ever recording.
Probably one of his best known songs, and perhaps one of my favourites, if I had to pick just one, is The Voyage. Ironically this song was written by Johnny Duhan. Johnny is someone who is far less celebrated than I believe he should be. He’s probably only known to fans of a now long defunct band called Granny’s Intentions. “Reel in the Flickering Light” is another personal favourite, but I also think Christy does a super version of “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” made famous by Roberta Flack. Many may remember it from the film, Play Misty For Me, which marked the directorial debut of Clint Eastwood in the early 70s. Funnily enough I played this on radio recently and was lambasted by a listener who believed that he had just murdered their beloved Roberta Flack classic. Each to his own.
Roberta Flack aside, though, anyone who’s ever been to see Christy live will not walk away disappointed. The by now trademark perspiration evidence of his total passion and single mindedness, I don’t think the man would know how to do a second rate show.
It can’t be long before we get an opportunity to glimpse this national treasure in Waterford and whether or not there’s a pint or a large bottle in sight, it’ll be worth the wait to catch the master in action one more time. While we have him, he’s surely worthy of our appreciation.
All these years on from that terrific night at Katie Reilly’s, I’d be well up for another round, of Christy I mean.