Entries in Dublin (18)

Thursday
Aug252011

Brad Paisley @ The Olympia Theatre, Dublin 19 August 2011

Brad Paisley onstage with Darius Rucker (inset) using a local beverage bottle to good advantage.


If there was ever any doubt that a healthy market for Nashville’s country music existed in Dublin it would have been blasted out of existence Friday night. It was a first come, first served downstairs-standing-up gig and the crowd was queuing neatly for 150 metres down Dame Street at twenty past five. And the doors didn’t open until 7.

I can’t say much about the Darius Rucker gig as I was stuck backstage for most of it, but from what I did hear he was in amazing voice, had a tight band – he’s far too experienced for anything else – sang some of his hits and the crowd loved his show. And it couldn’t happen to a nicer guy – he’s a sweetheart with a fabulous voice and is a great songwriter who loves what he does.

Brad Paisley was instantly at home with the crowd and if they loved Darius Rucker, they adored Brad, singing along with every word of every song. He played for roughly 2 hours with two acoustic solo numbers to break up the almost overwhelming power and sound of the band. The solo numbers were Whiskey Lullaby and When I get Where I’m Going To and showcased his acoustic playing and voice.  Brad is known for his amazing guitar playing and his reputation was thoroughly burnished, not tarnished by the gig. It’s true: he is a spectacular guitarist and in regard to his other talents, songwriting and singing he fully deserves his CMA Entertainer of the Year title. The band are versatile and very, very good, particularly Kendal Marcy on keyboards and banjo and the flamboyant Ben Sesar on drums, although to be fair, the steel player (Randle Currie) sounded great when we heard him, but the sound varied from place to place.

Working on a Tan was dedicated to a sun-starved Ireland – and we need it! Other highlights were  This is Country Music, title track to Paisley’s most recent album, Celebrity , I’m Still a Guy, I’m Gonna Miss Her (aka The Fishing Song), and the night’s climax was a full stage – crew and Darius Rucker included – rave up of Alcohol.

Enterprising promoters take note: the audience is there, even in these parlous economic times we have the time and the money for good music – just bring it in and we’ll be there.

Review by Sandy Harsch. Photography by Ronnie Norton

Monday
Aug012011

Brian Setzer Rockabilly Riot Vicar St. Dublin 27th July 2011

Still walking the walk, Brian Setzer joins his upright bassist and drummer onstage in his stylish rockabilly threads and they proceed to rock the town with a set of uptempo workouts that see cohorts Noah Levy on drums and Johhny Hatton provide a solid foundation for Setzer to display his undoubted prowess as a guitarist of the highest calibre of Gretch rockin' twang. Songs for that segment of the show included '49 Mercury Blues, Drive Like Lightening, Crash Like Thunder and This Cat's On A Hot Tin Roof. He then slowed things down with Slow Down. They band were also joined by pianist and acoustic guitarist Kevin McKendree who played some fine Jerry Lee style keyboard skills. Setzer understanding of pacing allowed things to build in an organic, if fairly frantic pace. He did a nice segue into a countryish Folsom Prison Blues early into the set. It should also be noted that Setzer is a strong vocalist able to handle the different tempos and styles with ease. The initial rhythm section then left the stage to be replaced by original Stray Cat drummer, singer and all round showman Slim Jim Phantom and a second double bassist Chris D'Rozario. Phantom's kit was a stripped down snare and cymbals set up. The bass drum providing a platform for Slim Jim to stand on rather than being used as an actual rhythm instrument. None the less this partial Stray Cats reunion was much loved by fans and Phantom and Setzer seemed to enjoy playing off each other. Old favourites were played including the theme song Stray Cat Strut. Phantom enthusiastic playing saw the destruction of one snare skin along the way. Johnny Hatton then rejoined the stage and the two double bassist began a slap string showdown and some gymnastic displays with the instruments which then led to Setzer joining them with his own silver sprayed double bass and the trio then worked together in harmony and competition. The Rockabilly Riot tour undoubtably is as much a spectacle of skill and showmanship as it is pure rockabilly. But that doesn't detract from the general audience enjoyment who were obviously delighted to see these guys up on stage together. An extended Fishnet Stockings was soon followed by an encore which included all band members on stage for a fitting. They did and we smiled.

Sunday
Feb272011

Lucky Bones @ The Sugar Club, Dublin - 24 Feb 2011

This new Dublin band were using this date to launch the album Together We Are All Alone. The album was recorded in Barstop,Texas by singer/songwriter Eamonn O'Connor and some session players. O'Connor then put together this band on his return to do full justice to the songs which show O'Connor to be an interesting and intelligent writer. The music covers several bases and influences, including country and roots rock, celtic soul and '60s based melodic pop. In the live context these disparate elements are drawn together by the versatile band. With a solid rhythm section of Leon Kennedy and Ben Clark powering the songs over which keyboard/banjo player Conor Miley and guitarist Billy Morley added texture and grit to the songs. This made the live band renditions of the songs rougher edged and punchier than the recorded versions. Songs like their debut single Longshot, Toward The Setting Sun, Stand So Tall, Unbelieving Eyes, Frank Sinatra and the extended, intense closer Commercial Presentation are all memorable and melodic. Eamonn O'Connor is convivial frontman who leads the band from the front and is a captivating singer. This is early days for Lucky Bones who have only played a handful of gigs to date, which included opening for Marty Stuart as an acoustic trio, and sound issues with monitors and small tuning problems should soon be eliminated with experience and confidence. That two of the stand-out songs, including the song of infatuation bordering on stalking - , are new songs shows that this band can only get better. These are tough times for any new band, especially one making its own way in the world but the signs are that these guys, if they hold their nerve, will be lucky.

Sunday
Feb062011

Marty Stuart & The Fabulous Superlatives @The Helix, Dublin. Feb 2nd 2011

Sparkle and Twang. That may well sum up Marty Stuart and the Fabulous Superlatives as they gave a masterclass in how to keep a tradition alive and healthy. At the outset Marty Stuart said that "the most outlaw, most outsider thing you could do in Nashville today is to play country music". How right he is, and as someone who has been at the heart of the music, its people and its rhinestone look he knows what he's talking about. In his first visit to Ireland in quite some time he captivated the audience in the intimate Helix Theatre. It was his first visit with his current and longtime band which includes 'Handsome' Harry Stinson on drums and vocals, 'The Apostle' Paul Martin on bass and vocals and 'Cousin' Kenny Vaughan on guitar and vocals. The "and vocals" shouldn't be underestimated as all four deliver distinctive and dynamic contributions either on harmonies or stepping up to the mic themselves. Each member showed themselves more than capable of holding their own. Vaughan sang Country Music Has A Hold On Me, while Handsome Harry sang a song from his Who Is This Man? mini-album, Paul Martin sang Bluegrass Express. It also was a gig that emphasized what a talent Marty Stuart himself is; from his exemplary vocals, his lead guitar playing - using Clarence White's B-Bender Telecaster, alongside his acoustic guitar and mandolin dexterity, highlighted in a section of the show that he played solo. The full band played songs from the early days like Tempted and Hillbilly Rock to a selection of songs, often prefaced with stories of how the came into being, from Ghost Train and Badlands. They also played several songs from the CD that is only available at gigs and from their website Cool Country Favorites. These included the theme from the Marty Stuart Rural TV Show La Tingo Tango as well as his Johnny Cash tribute, a song which he had explained he had attempted to write in several occasions, Dark Bird. He also sang Merle Haggard's Tonight The Bottle Let Me Down, an audience request, and a part of obvious and warm interaction between the audience and the band throughout the show. The music covered all aspects of what makes country cool to those who know and believe in it's merits. From bluegrass to Bakersfield, from honky-tonk to gospel they covered it all with skill, humour and commitment that made it a perfect show in so many ways. Mention should also be made of Mick Conley's sound mix, as all too often in the past gigs have been too loud and volume does not replace dynamic, here they got it right in every aspect. Something that was expressed by many of the audience who waited to have a CD signed, have a picture taken or just to say "hi". The foursome sat for an hour after to make sure that anyone who wanted to had the opportunity to meet them. Now that's country.

Tuesday
Feb012011

Justin Townes Earle, 25th January 2011, Whelans, Dublin


"Alright, Ladies and Gentlemen, how are we doing?". Justin Townes Earle greets the house-full audience and launches into a 25 song set that covered songs from all three of his albums. He prowled the stage like a caged tiger, full of pent up energy and the need to express himself. This was frustrated at times by a temperamental tuner "technical difficulties" but otherwise Earle was in top form. Most songs were prefaced by anecdotes relating in some way to the song he was about to play. They Killed John Henry was prefaced by a mention of his grandfather Jack Earle. Mama's Eyes, a song for his Mother who he told us stood over 6 foot tall and managed to detach one of his father's retinas with a single punch. He also mentioned she was now using Facebook and said that if "she ever gets on Twitter I'm through". Earle live is quite a different prospect to the JustinTownes Earle on album where he utilizes a full band and range of instruments. Live he uses his considerable guitar technique that sees him playing both a hard rhythm as well as melodic lead lines that sound like there is more than one player. A second player would have undoubtably added depth to the sound, as was the case on his last visit when he had Cory Younts accompanying him. A point emphasized here when he brought support act James Walbourne and his brother Rob on for a set closing Harlem River Blues, the duo played mandolin and washboard and added vocal support. Being solo however gives him the freedom to play whatever song he felt inclined to. His set included covers of "the great" Bruce Springsteen's Racing In The Streets as well as a Texas blues song from Lightening Hopkins. He noted that Townes Van Zandt had said that there was only "the blues and zippity do dah" and that no set would be complete with a blues. That music genre undoubtably informs Earle's own songs as well as the covers he played. He didn't shy away from his own blues, telling us that his weaknesses included "young ladies and fried chicken", but he noted that while fried chicken had given him less problems than women it also gave him less to write about. His father he said noted that he was "a hard dog to keep under the porch". He mentioned his recent and ongoing problems with chemical dependence and incarceration. His love of vodka ("I like to drink it in the morning") as well as cocaine and pills were cited. This tour follows a much reported spell in rehab and one can only hope that this talented artist can keeps that side of his nature under control and that it doesn't diminish him as a live performer and recording artist. Because he is capable of a lot of insight and tenderness as with songs like Learning To Cry as well as the more driven hell-raising songs in his set. Make no mistake Justin Townes Earle is very much his own man and this audience loved him for everything that he is.

Review by Steve Rapid. Photography by Ronnie Norton