Last night’s fun was front row seats at the Dervish tribute in the National Concert Hall. There were times when you’d wish for maybe a different venue for such an earthy, no-nonsense group to really be themselves, but it was a very special occasion and there were very distinguished guests to be presented so it worked out perfectly in the end.
From their very first set, walking on stage casually without fuss or fanfare, Cathy Jordon, Liam Kelly, Shane Mitchell, Brian McDonagh, Tom Morrow and Michael Holmes looked totally in their element, so excited to be performing with so many of “their heroes”, as Cathy put it.
First up were Dennis Cahill & Martin Hayes, and they did a kind of whistle-stop showcase of their blissed-out musical journey together. Nirvana so early in the night might have been a problem (as in, hard act to follow), but it wasn’t. Cathy joined them for a song before the rest of Dervish returned on stage and roused us up with some hand-clapping, thigh-flapping stuff.
Next up were Moya Brennan & Cormac de Barra of Clannad. Although it’s an overdone song, their Down By the Sally Gardens was a delight. They were on stage for much of the night, and it was a pity that at times Cormac’s harp was inaudible as he really looked like he was giving it his all to get it to fit in.
Cathy was brilliant on the link-ups, a laugh a minute almost. Her singing was let down a bit at first by the sound system, in my opinion (at least so close to the stage, it was) and her natural-voiced upper-range (“blasht”) singing sometimes overpowered the microphone. But it was just perfect when she slipped up into falsetto sweetness too, and I’m a big fan of her sudden drops into throaty drone for the lower notes. I like her (intentional) flat enunciation style too, which on the night was in sharp contrast to Moya’s clear, fine delivery. I’m also fond of Cathy’s elaborate hand movements and limb swaying while singing – they display a way to respond bodily to airs to match the more obvious way we tap, clap & flap to dance tunes. Her trippy dancing would not be out of place on a club dance floor filled with teenagers, and I like that fact. She’s also a furiously fast bodhran player, of course, with a lovely fondness for the rim & variety of beats. (She has a curious habit of turning her dowel tipper around in her hands and glancing at it from different angles while she listens to the other musicians and waits to pick up the drum. She seems to be so at home while on display, you’d wonder does it in fact come about with great effort!)
Tríona Ní Dhomhnaill was exquisite, Do you love an apple? in particular. But it was Damien (“Diva”) Dempsey doing Rainy Night in Soho that most made me think a “happening” was happening. It was pure, self-indulgent, dreamy romance to sit there & let it flow over you. Other guests were Canadian dancer Nathan Pilatzke (last seen at The Chieftains concert in Barretstown) and Swedish nyckelharpa virtuoso, Olov Johansson. There were encores, standing ovations, and generally a lot of happy people enjoying themselves on stage and off.
It took a lot of vision and hard-work to develop this concert, I’d say, and I don’t know who in the National Concert Hall it was that led the charge, but well done to all involved! A great idea, brilliantly executed & well received.