I’m just back from playing at Urban Soul, a new event for teenagers that sees them working on community projects in some of the less salubrious areas of Dublin in the daytimes and coming together to reflect and chill out in the evenings. The night ends with a kind of a talkshow/café gig and I was asked to play tonight, their first night.
I did a half-hour set, a mix of my own songs and covers:
I’ve linked to different videos of the covers there. Check out the Guillemots and Bon Iver ones – they’re from a French site called La Blogotheque which features interesting performances by bands on their ‘take-away shows’. The Coldplay one is a couple of guys I found on YouTube doing a great job of covering this, the cracking title track from the band’s latest album; it’s really lodged itself in my head. Apparently it’s the first Billboard Hot 100 #1 by a British rock band since EMF’s ‘Unbelieveable’ in 1991. Good old Wikipedia, eh?!
James did another show in Whelan’s new upstairs room last night with me on piano, Peter Ryan on bass and Cion O’Callaghan coming in for the gig on drums. Support was provided by the wonderful Stace Gill (currently putting the finishing touches to her first EP) and, new to me, Rhob Cunningham. I was really taken with Rhob’s songs and easy-going demeanour. Here’s one of the songs he played last night, ‘A good or bad thing’, recorded for Channel 6’s ‘The Airfield Sessions’ last year…
The set with James was similar to the last night we played there. James opened with a couple of tunes on his own (including the hypnotic ‘Down the burning road’) and then we joined him.
Fairytales – good opener; I get to play out a good bit on this one with a solo and everything!
Breaking hearts – Peter and I stepped up the mics and supplied some backing vocals to the ‘itchy feet’ chorus of this song.
I watched the world
Please tell me there’s a spark
If my heart should somehow stop – I love the eruption into the middle eight of this song.
We don’t eat until your father’s at the table – this is such a fun song to play: it’s got a lovely, lazy gospel feel.
I’m free – we fairly ripped through this one. Exhilarating song, even at the right tempo!
I am hopeful
This last song is a new one and James wanted to try something a bit different so he sang while I played. We agreed that this was one of the highlights of the night and the crowd certainly enjoyed it and bayed for an encore, James obliging with a cover version of Sam Sparro’s ‘Black and Gold’, which he combined with the haunting, sparse accompaniment for ‘Down the burning road’ to great effect. This is a real ‘you-had-to-be-there’ story, because it’s impossible to make the leap from the club anthem portrayed in Sparro’s video to the hushed room that hung on James’s every word last night. Magic.
Last night was a special showcase performance of the musical I’ve been involved in, ‘Gerry and the Peace Process’, written and directed by Liam Hourican and David Crann. The hope is that some of the production and directing types invited will help us take the musical on to reach a wider audience; the show went really well and everyone played their hearts out so, all being well, that process will be smoother than the political one on which the show is based.
I’ve been with the show, playing keyboard, since its well-received debut in the Dublin Fringe Festival last September. Since then, it’s done another run in the Samuel Beckett theatre (at Christmas time, which I wasn’t available for) and we took it to the Out To Lunch festival in Belfast in January. Having grown up in the north enjoying the humour that the assorted political figures of ‘the Troubles’ afforded us – funny accents, mostly, as I recall – I felt that it would go down a storm. Sure enough, we packed the venue twice on our visit to Belfast which was an important milestone of encouragement for the team as they saw the very real potential of the show’s success.
I don’t have any examples of the live music from the show itself – provided by Big Swing – but I do have one of the video clips interspersed throughout the 75-minute production, “…the Taosieach, Bertie Ahern, made a statement flanked by the Minister for Justice but it wasn’t quite clear what he was talking about…”.
Bertie Ahern (Liam Hourican) and Michael McDowell (Jim Roche). Mozart’s ‘Queen of the night’ aria from ‘The Magic Flute’; I’m on piano.
I met Hamlet Sweeney back in January at The Purty Sessions in Dun Laoghaire; he was on the bill and I was playing with Jill. I really liked his humorous songs and thought he did a great job of performing them. About a month later he got in touch and asked if I’d play with him at a launch gig he was putting on in the Bewleys café theatre.
He sent me some demos, we chatted a couple of times and visited the venue before meeting up on the afternoon of the gig to rehearse. Plans to get a bass player had fallen through but there was a piano there so I was able to add body to the sound on that and on cajon. Everywhere I play the cajon people comment on it; it has such a remarkable sound, especially if you’ve never seen one played before and some dude on the stage starts thumping his chair all of a sudden!
‘Canary in a coalmine’ – Hamlet opened on his own with this lovely song, capturing the audience’s attention in the intimate room.
‘Is she real?’ – I added a nice little ostinato on the guitar.
‘Boogie man‘ – when Hamlet heard I played the clarinet, he suggested I try it on this tune. It was great fun to play (it has a kind of ‘Hit the road, Jack’ feel to it and calls for some audience participation on the chorus, which went down well).
‘Sunshine’ – a groovy, bluesy tune which I played on piano.
‘The Una Molloy hangover song’ – piano again.
‘Breathe in the light’ – to the cajon with some backing vocals in the refrains for this epic, gospel-y song.
‘Voices in my head’ – this was particularly good, I thought. I added a simple piano part to the second half of Hamlet’s haunting song. Very effective.
‘Street lights’ – Hamlet’s done a video for this one with a guy who I met at the gig, Mark Doherty, which should be interesting to see.
‘Perfect day’ – a song that Hamlet’s had some success with on radio in other parts of the world. A summer song 🙂
‘Buy this song’ – funny lyrics! I put in the drum intro from ‘Gold digger’. This’ll be great to play with a band.
‘Mr Slim’ – Hamlet’s ‘beef’ song.
‘Why must love die?’ – Hamlet went out into the middle of the packed little room and sang this alone. Lovely moment and another wistful beauty.
One of Hamlet’s friends captured ‘Voices in my head’ on video: