As he walked onto the deep stage, draped in black and full of intensity Christy Moore, followed as always by his right hand man Declan Sinnott looked comfortably determined. Welcomed with open arms by Geordies and Irishmen alike it seemed only right that the folk legend had returned to a venue whose grandeur and reverence could handle what he had in store. The crisp beauty of the Sage’s Hall One brings a certain elegance to a performance which always has the potential to be either mystical or raucous (Christy’s fans do love a positive heckle and request or two).
Barely looking up but to steady his song sheet, Christy Moore launched into his performance with a song which seemed to be evocatively apt considering the current state of affairs in Europe. With lulling voice and drenched in political imagery ‘How Long’ cannot help but draw one’s mind to the horror of the image of Syrian child whose life was left upon the shores this summer. Singing out lyrics which sting in the context, “How long can a child survive/how long can you hear someone dying/Before you ask yourself why”. As always Christy uses his position to display the power of song to capture the injustices of politics and the tragedy of war. The weight of the message conveyed settled hard among the audience.
Never one to shy away from talk of politics or conflict in his performances the night also heard an ode to ‘the people’s king’, Nelson Mandela with the accompaniment of a percussionist (a youthful and exuberant presence on stage) whose rhythmic djembe drum beat danced among the harmonies of Moore and Sinnott to take the audience on a trip to Cape Town.
Moore appeared in good spirits; a man who has befallen hard times but continues to play on and retain that spark which made his fans fall in love with both his voice and his charm. A love which some members of the audience couldn’t help but profess and thus began an on-going bit between Christy and his secret romance in the top tier. “I love you too baby, and I don’t care who knows it” he returned to the man in the rafters sending the crowd of over a thousand into roars of laughter. This light hearted exchange fed quite nicely into a nifty and chuckle producing turn of ‘Reel in the Flickering Light’. A colourful tale of a daddy-long-legs whose lord of the dance prowess wins his the woman of his dreams. Christy admitted that this is a tune beloved by his younger fans, but tonight it was heartily relished by all ages.
Yells for the classics took over at points to which Moore patiently obliged, treating us to sing-along classics like ‘Ride On’, ‘Ordinary Man’ and ‘Viva La Quinta Brigada’. All of which hold a special place in my heart from childhood, being firm sing-along favourites of my father who just so happened to be sat to my right (singing louder that most of the reserved people in our row – a mark of a true fan, that and he flew from Ireland for the performance). A curiously placed cover of Shane McGowans ‘Fairy Tale of New York’ reminded us all that despite Halloween not being over the season of good will is most definitely on the way. Or, as Christy sarcastically put it, “only 100 shopping days ‘til Christmas”.
Part of the foundation of any Christy Moore performance is the skilful and intricate guitar playing of Mr Declan Sinnott, who showed on this evening how truly professional he is; playing through a full song without even an acknowledgement of his quite clearly bleeding nose. His ability to switch from bluesy slide riffs to country arrangements is stylish and captivating and it is clear that he is essential to the core of Christy Moore’s shows. Christy himself credited Declan for ‘keeping him grounded’ and even stepped out of the spotlight for a moment to let Sinnott showcase his own song writing capabilities.
Steeped in history, heritage and political undertones Christy Moore never fails to send tingles down the spine of his audiences. The ancient echoes of ‘Well Below the Valley’ and an impromptu yet stunning acapella performance of ‘Spancill Hill’ were enchanting highlights, which elevated the evening to an almost mystical realm. Sent off with two well-deserved standing ovations Christy Moore and the men who flanked him humbly edged off stage shaking the hands of those who adored them.
In Christy’s words, fair play lads. Sure, where would you get it?
Photographer – Matt Flynn