BBC

Archive: 02 Feb 2006 – Setlist & Review “Folk Britannia: Which Side Are You On?”

About the Performance

2 February 2006 / 19:30 – Barbican Centre, London, England
Tickets: £15 £20 £25 – Sold out

Hosted and curated by Billy Bragg this concert focuses on songs of social engagement and commentary.

Special guests include English folk legend Martin Carthy, Scottish stalwart Dick Gaughan, Maggie Holland and singer-songwriter Robb Johnnson.

From the radical folk protest of luminaries such as Ewan McColl to the more contemplative songs on the role of the individual in society. Social and political commentary has always played a key role in the British music scene reflecting on many aspects of social life from industrial strife to anti-war protest, to general disaffection, alienation and opposition to repressive governments.

Produced by the Barbican in association with BBC Four.


Live at Barbican Centre, London, England

Concert featuring Billy Bragg, Martin Carthy, Donovan, Dick Gaughan, Maggie Holland, Andy Irvine, Robb Johnson, Neill & Calum MacColl, Karine Polwart & Chris Wood supported by Martin Barker & Simon Edwards

Andy’s Setlist

Do Re Mi (Billy Bragg, Andy Irvine… more )
The Ballad of Tom Joad
Never Tire of the Road

Encore:

Hard Travelin’ (Woody Guthrie cover) (Singalong with all performers)

In Review

WHICH SIDE ARE YOU ON? BILLY BRAGG AND COMRADES

The Barbican, London, February 2nd, 2006

I sometimes wonder what we did to deserve Billy Bragg. I mean don’t get me wrong, I’m sure he’s a nice guy (or should I say bloke?) and I don’t question the sincerity of his views, and I would be the first to confess that he can write a decent song or two, but doesn’t his brand of simple minded and sanctimonious schoolboy socialism just wear you down after a while? It’s the sort of naïve and haplessly enthusiastic amateurism that would only be tolerated in Britain, where (judging by his audience tonight) he is held in high esteem. But I’m sorry, and if I may use a comedic metaphor, I have to say that for me he’s the Harry Worth of revolutionary socialism.

But then maybe I’m the sort of disenchanted, middle-aged, comfortably-off cynic that Dick Gaughan (one of the stellar list of performers who joined blokey Billy in this BBC 4 sponsored evening of songs of protest) sang about, preferring an easy life of material pleasure to one of continual struggle. Well perhaps. But I don’t see why I have to put up with patronising primary school lectures from Billy the Bloke about the p’lyikul folk tradition, what it means to be English (a subject which, god help us. Billy Bloque is writing a book), the English p’lyikul folk tradition, Billy’s role in the p’lyikul English struggle of the traditional folk – well, I think you get the picture. We’re here to listen to some outstanding talent (on a good day I might even put BB in the lower quartile of that group) celebrate the songs of Woody Guthrie and Ewan McColl in particular, not to suffer the Blokeoid bouncing around the stage like a podgy Leninist Labrador pup with pitiable posture. Enough!

To be frank when I booked these seats the line up was only about half complete. So I was as surprised as anyone when, after Billy and his two accompanying blokes first kicked off with a couple of tunes (including Florence Reece’s ‘Which side are you on’, which gave the evening its title) and then with Robb Johnson sang Woody Guthrie’s ‘I guess I planted’, Donovan walked on the stage. Looking like a portly pixie who’d spent the last thirty years in the magic pie shoppe he briefly presented his credentials – “It was out of Glasgow that I came, and my father was a socialist” – and then, sadly, croaked his way through his mega-hit, Buffy St Marie’s ‘Universal Soldier’.

Martin Carthy

But the evening got better – Martin Carthy, (who I have come to regard as truly outstanding since I saw him last year, having revisited some of his old stuff that I had hidden away, and explored his newer material) gave us a master class in two short sessions of how English folk music should be played and sung. His well chosen songs were MacColl’s ‘I’m champion at keeping them rolling’ (yikes – a song about British truck drivers?), the moving ‘Company policy’, an angry lament for the lost British sailors of the Falklands war, and the even more moving ‘18th June’ , about THAT famous battle at Waterloo in 1815. If you haven’t listened to Carthy then you should – his droning, picking guitar style is almost unique. But it does remind me a little of Dick Gaughan, son of Leith, with a spine shuddering voice and an astonishingly aggressive and staccato guitar style. In addition to giving us complacent ones a sharp dig in the ribs, Dick sang ‘Outlaws and dreamers’ and Peggy Seeger’s ‘Song of choice’. Frankly I could have listened to him all night and wouldn’t have got too cross about his unyielding dialectic – for a debunking of the romantic myths of Scottish History as refreshing as Michael Marra’s, try and find him singing ‘No gods and precious few heroes’.We got history of a sort from Maggie Holland singing her award winning composition ‘A place called England’ (BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards “Best Song of 1999”). This England, so much admired by Radio 2 listeners, is one where freedom and liberty is assured to all good and true providing we set about growing nasturtiums and runner beans on the land occupied by disused steel works, shipyards etc. Yes friends, it was predictable that this had to be followed by an ensemble performance (Bragg, Gaughan, Holland) of ‘The world turned upside down’, a celebration of the short lived Digger movement of the English Civil War, much feted in a book of the same name by the great Marxist historian Christopher Hill, who like all good scholars never allowed facts to get in the way of an argument. It’s all Golden Age nonsense really, and only goes to confirm my suspicions that all Radio 2 listeners live firmly in a fantasy world. Ironically when I typed ‘The world turned upside down’ into Google one of the first references I got was to a popular song from the seventeenth century lamenting the defeat of King Charles at the Battle of Naseby, and the subsequent suppression of festivities (English good and true) such as Christmas by the radicals and Cromwell’s New Model Army. Strangely this song of protest didn’t get onto the set list.

Left to right: Dick Gaughan, Billy Bragg and Andy Irvine

But some cracking ones did. A real surprise to me was the foursome of Chris Wood, Karine Polwart, and Neill and Callum MacColl – the two sons of Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger. They performed three songs written by their father, the stunning highlight of which was Chris Wood singing the touchingly cynical ‘The father’s song’. I read that Wood’s 2005 album The Lark Descending is a real cracker – put it on your list, it’s certainly on mine. But before these guys we had, in my opinion, the star turn of the night, Andy Irvine of Planxty fame. Readers may recall my enthusiasm for Irvine from last year’s Planxty gig at the same venue – apparently Irvine is a great Guthrie scholar, and much admired by Mr Bragg. This evening his short performance alone was worth the cost of the ticket. With Bragg and Gaughan he performed Guthrie’s ‘Do re mi’, and solo, playing bouzouki and harmonica a simply jaw-dropping version of ‘Tom Joad’, followed by his own song about Guthrie, ‘Never tired of the road’. Just wonderful. And Billy didn’t do too badly towards the end as he sang his lovely ‘Between the wars’…

But then of course it was time for the dreadful bit when the stage was filled (at least when Gaughan and half the performers could be lured back from the smoking room) and the assembled cast stumbled their way through MacColl’s ‘Dirty old town’. Of course by this time we were all bursting to rush for the barricades, so as soon as the fulsome and largely deserved applause died down we scrambled for the fenced-in taxi rank. “Anyone like to share a cab to the revolution in W4?” – Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate).

source: whiskyfun.com

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Archive: Planxty Live 2004 – CD/DVD Reviews

Sony 517319 2

The roars from the audience on this live CD say it all: not mere enthusiasm, more like primal expressions of joy from those lucky enough to have witnessed, in the first weeks of 2004, the historical reassemblage of Christy Moore, Donal Lunny, Liam O’Flynn and Andy Irvine into the legendary supergroup Planxty.

After 1973, once these boys had invigorated it, traditional Irish music was never the same again. Already virtuoso players with a vast love of the tradition, they infused their music with youthful energy and innovations from subtle harmonies to driving rhythms and the introduction of the bouzouki. Reformed for a dozen Irish concerts after a 21 year lay-off, the band played to ecstatic full houses and recorded this CD and a DVD for posterity.

The track list is a Planxty fan’s dream and rightly so – why abandon a great repertoire unused for two decades? From the off, the sound is unmistakable – the melodic, intricate weavings of Lunny and Irvine’s bouzouki and mandolin, the rhythmic drive, and above all, O’Flynn’s razor-sharp uilleann pipes, locked rail-tight and flying over, in and through everything else. Moore and Irvine’s voices are a little mellower, the familiar songs given maybe a little more bite: The Good Ship Kangaroo, Arthur McBride, Little Musgrave, The Blacksmith (chased by the tumbling, Balkan-inspired Black Smithereens), two versions of As I Roved Out, The West Coast Of Clare … and the real prize, Raggle Taggle Gypsy with its classic segue into Tabhair Dom Do Lámh, still a heart-stopper after all these years.

There’s nostalgia value aplenty but there’s nothing dated or outworn from these four, who clearly still delight in each other’s company. One gets the sense that on- and offstage spontaneous combustion was only narrowly avoided – you can feel hairs standing up on necks, the sense of prodigals returned, family restored. Just pray the rumours of more gigs turn out to be true.

Mel McClellan - July 2004

source: www.bbc.co.uk


Music Review/Album: 09 Jun 2004

Twenty years after going their separate ways, Planxty came together for a series of twelve concerts in Vicar Street and Glór…

Planxty, in their original line-up of Christy Moore, Andy Irvine, Donal Lunny and Liam O’Flynn, were arguably the most influential of any of the early Irish folk bands. Their legacy can be heard in the sound of virtually every group to grace the traditional music scene since, from Altan to Dervish to Stockton’s Wing.

Twenty years after going their separate ways, these four musicians – all of whom went on to become legends in their own right – came together for a series of twelve concerts in Vicar Street and Glór. Happily for those who didn’t make it to any of those extraordinary shows, a CD and DVD have now been released featuring excerpts from them.

From the first spontaneous roar from the crowd as O’Flynn’s rock-solid pipes make their entrance on ‘The Starting Gate’, it’s evident that something magical is afoot. The four mesh together as though they’d never been apart, especially when Moore, Irvine and Lunny join in rich three-part vocal harmony on ‘The Good Ship Kangaroo’. And always at the musical centre there’s O’Flynn, his whistle and pipes a massive, deep-rooted core around which guitars, mandolins, bouzoukis and bodhráns dance in contrasting rhythms that intertwine delicately with nary a clash.

All the classics are represented – ‘Arthur McBride’, ‘Little Musgrave’, ‘Raggle Taggle Gypsy’, ‘The Blacksmith’ – this latter segueing into ‘Black Smithereens’, a Balkan-inspired riot of syncopation with pipes and strings alternating in call-and-response style. O’Flynn’s solo turn on the slow air ‘The Dark Slender Boy’ is a high point, as is Irvine’s haunting ‘The West Coast of Clare’.

If you were lucky enough to be there, this recording will take you back. If you weren’t, close your eyes while you listen to it … or better yet, get hold of the DVD and watch it in a darkened room. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself whooping and shouting along with those fortunate punters in the audience.

Sarah McQuaid - Hotpress

source: hotpress.com


Columbia 202534 9; 2004

After initially testing the water in Lisdoonvarna the previous October, Planxty’s Dublin homecoming saw the reunited foursome playing a series of joyously received concerts. The venue was Vicar Street, a snug 300-seater where the front row is just a few feet from the stage.

Live 2004 offers selections from one of those concerts and features several tracks not present on the CD of the same name. These include Christy Moore’s eloquent song True Loves Knows No Season and Liam O’Flynn’s piping tour de force, the Carolan tune Sí Bheag Sí Mhór.

There’s plenty of stage banter (and one of Christy’s famous examples of how to put down a heckler) and the camera captures both the intimacy of the occasion and the intricacy of Planxty’s musicianship. Indeed watching close-ups of O’Flynn’s flying fingers and the intertwining devilry produced by Andy Irvine and Dónal Lunny on the strings is fascinating in itself.

Additionally, the DVD includes three bonus tracks, Andy’s song My Heart is Tonight in Ireland, Christy’s version of Mickey McConnell’s Only Our Rivers Run Free and an O’Flynn whistle solo O’Dwyer of the Glen.

But that’s not all you get for your money, for the DVD also features a documentary by Philip King and Nuala O’Connor on the band’s reformation, including some wonderful monochrome archive footage from the early 1970s (and, it has to be said, some wonderful archive hairstyles too) demonstrating just how impassioned Planxty’s music was then and remains so now. As their erstwhile manager remarks of the band, with especial reference to Liam, “You had three hippies up there … and you had this civil servant in the middle, and he’s producing the magic.”

Add to that a separate section of interviews with each of the band (including Christy’s tale of “the man from Portlaoise” – you’ll have to buy the DVD to learn what that’s all about) and this is almost the perfect package. It loses that one star simply because, hard to credit, but the band subsequently achieved even greater heights, as revealed by their momentous Barbican gig.

This review by Geoff Wallis was written for Songlines magazine

source: www.songlines.co.uk.


Sleeve Note from Leagues O’Toole:

Amongst other things, the year 2004 will be remembered for the public re-assembling of Planxty for twelve concerts – two in Glór, Ennis, in the music heartland of County Clare, and ten in the plush confines of Vicar St, Dublin – their first live performances in twenty-something years. †This is an event of some considerable historical and cultural magnitude, rendered all the more pertinent given the seamless realignment of Donal Lunny, Andy Irvine, Liam O’Flynn and Christy Moore.

Surreptitious rehearsals in Paddy Doherty’s Spa Hotel in Lisdoonvarna the previous October had revealed to the Planxty players that the chemistry was alive and well and ready to blow. And so it did, as each night the music tumbled magically from their fingers, smiles stretched across our faces, heads bobbed, feet tapped, Christy ‘hupped,’ and we all set adrift on a musical journey that would sail us through the full gamut of emotions.

A cast of odd characters starred each night; lusty blacksmiths, murderous Lords and adulterous Ladies, mighty mariners, raggle taggle gypsies, and shillelagh-wielding latchecos. There was drama, laughs, slagging, jubilation, reflection, and love coming from every corner of the room. The songs and tunes came to us from decades and centuries gone, from 17th century harp music, to the singing of John Reilly, to the priceless pages of the PW Joyce Collection.

‘The Starting Gate’ eases us into the music with delicacy and intricacy, quickly introducing that building block technique that marks so much of Planxty’s music; the blissful bouzouki-mandolin marriage, the otherworldly whistle, the drone, the raspy guitar, the thump of the bodhrán. And in the middle of this melee is Liam O’Flynn whose knife-edge precision piping raises a roar from the audience and elevates the music to the high heavens.

On his solo piece, ‘The Dark Slender Boy’ a mood of pin-drop rapture cloaks the room as Liam bends yearning notes and stretches whirring drones into this profoundly mournful music. In contrast, on ‘The Clare Jig’ his pastoral whistle dances gleefully between the double-bodhrán attack of Donal and Christy.

There are some fantastic stories told within the songs performed here. ‘Arthur McBride’ is an anti-conscription / anti-war song, and one which resonates as much with Planxty’s virgin audience as it does with veterans of the 70s. Here, Andy Irvine calls upon his colleagues to back him up on a suitably rousing rowdy-dow-dow chorus. The nine-minute plus ‘Little Musgrave’ is a poetically written fable of love, lust, infidelity, jealousy, murder, and remorse – the words to which Christy Moore found on pages scattered on the floor of an auctioneers in the early 70s. This particular rendition captures the singer in majestic free-flow.

We rarely discuss Planxty without referencing the unusual new flavours, arrangements, and instruments they brought to traditional Irish music. In a demonstration of their peerlessly inventive verve, they stitch ‘Blacksmithereens’ (a tune based on Andy’s first impressions of Balkans music) onto an old English folk song, ‘The Blacksmith’. This fiery performance is driven by Donal Lunny’s robust, rhythmic, bouzouki and underpinned by Liam’s dramatic phrasing, which prompts another round of hollering from the congregation.

The loudest roar though is reserved for one of the most celebrated segues in traditional music – that invisible bridge from ‘Raggle Taggle Gypsy’ to ‘Tabhair Dom Do Lámh’. And who could deny Andy’s ‘West Coast of Clare,’ a lament of unrivalled pathos that has heads bowed in contemplation right across the venue. It’s rare to see an audience so possessed. It’s little wonder they received standing ovations every night upon entering and exiting the stage.

Nights like those in January and February of 2004 have been wished for, dreamt of, and fantasized about by thousands of Irish music fans for over two decades. We arrived excited, anxious, and downright nervous – there was a lot at stake; memories, expectations, and reputations. We left smiling, speechless, and wondering would we ever see their likes again.

It was a good start to the year.

Ushers Island on BBC Radio 2 – The Folk Show

Usher’s Island in Session

The best folk music from Britain and beyond.

This week, Irish supergroup Usher’s Island play tracks from their self-titled debut album.

Usher’s Island brings together two generations of the finest traditionalmusicians: Andy Irvine and Dónal Lunny (Planxty), Paddy Glackin (The Bothy Band), Michael McGoldrick (Capercaillie, Flook, Lunasa) and John Doyle (Solas).

Their debut album was recorded in a cottage in County Galway over a few days in 2016.

Plus, the usual mix of exciting new music, classic tracks and news from the folk world.

Tracks Performed

  • Felix the Soldier
  • Five Drunken Landladies
  • Heart in Hand
Watch: Five Drunken Landladies

Andy Irvine, Dónal Lunny, John Doyle, Paddy Glackin and Michael McGoldrick play live.

Release date: 14 June 2017
Duration: 7 minutes

Credits

Role Contributor
Performer Andy Irvine
Performer Donal Lunny
Performer John Doyle
Performer Michael McGoldrick
Paddy Glackin