Planxty – The Point Depot, Dublin, 4th January 2005
A reunion concert sceptic is blown away by Ireland’s trad supergroup.
The CLUAS Verdict?
9 out of 10
Short of The Smiths burying the hatchet anywhere other than firmly in between their respective shoulder blades, I generally don’t approve of bands reforming and screwing their fans one last time to top up their pensions. More often than not, what ensues is a sub-standard offering – take the recent shambolic Pogues Christmas karaoke. To put it mildly, I am underwhelmed at the prospect of catching Planxty, the privilege of which is costing me 65 euro (including the outrageous Ticketmaster charges?deep breaths, deep breaths). Still I have promised an exiled friend home for the holidays, so it is off to the Point with me.
As a general rule, I have a fondness for all genres of music, but as with jazz and blues, I usually enjoy trad for about fifteen minutes before I grow weary. As Planxty take to the stage, the crowd of a couple of thousand is attentive to the Point of being able to hear a pin drop – a complete atmosphere bypass, so all of the omens for an enjoyable night are bad. And then the music starts. The first thing of note is that the sound is absolute perfection, probably the best I’ve heard at a gig; precisely balanced, particularly in ensuring that Liam O’Flynn’s pipes do not drown out the delicate string playing. Christy Moore takes us through instant crowd pleasers of ‘The Good Ship Kangaroo’ and ‘Little Musgrave’ with Donal Lunney and Andy Irvine’s intricate mandolin and bouzouki complimenting each other beautifully. O’Flynn chips in with some excellent pipe and tin whistle and Christy is at his understated best, clearly relishing not being the centre of attention.
The first real show stopper of the night is O’Flynn’s rendition of the ‘Dark and Slender Boy’, an air that showcases the power and depth of harmonies a master player can extract from the pipes. As the songs roll on, you can only sit there and appreciate that you are listening to four musicians who if anything have only got better as time has passed. The fragility the years have brought to Irvine’s voice only adds to the charm. The tunes are timeless and their execution exemplary.
At the close, the Planxty standards of ‘The West Coast of Clare’ and ‘Raggle Taggle Gypsy Rose’ bring the house down – two hours have passed in the blink of an eye. It has been thoroughly captivating. The encore includes Andy Irvine’s recently penned ‘O’Donoghues’ a reminiscence on their heyday when you couldn’t get arrested for playing this sort of music. I can only take it all back. Planxty have been worth every penny. They are masters of their craft and who could begrudge them their day in the sun having each spent thirty years championing this music.
Planxty – Live in The Point Depot, Dublin
You know, it would be easy to consider Planxty a little naff. They play a mix of folk and trad, sing songs about the ‘West Coast Of Clare’ with lyrics that mention shillelaighs and were entertaining your parents before many of you were even born. But Planxty are much more than just a sentimental relic of the past…
You know, it would be easy to consider Planxty a little naff. They play a mix of folk and trad, sing songs about the ‘West Coast Of Clare’ with lyrics that mention shillelaighs and were entertaining your parents before many of you were even born.
But Planxty are much more than just a sentimental relic of the past, and it was perhaps the fact that it was No Disco’s premier indie boffin Leagues O’Toole who made the docu which lead to their reunion that made many in the younger generation sit up and take notice. Last year’s triumphant run of sold-out Planxty reunion shows in Vicar St. earned such a reception that the trad supergroup were bound to do an encore, which materialised recently in the shape of yet another run of packed concerts.
This time The Point was the venue for the veteran folk collective to weave their spell, and when Christy Moore prompts the assembled throng by describing how the crowd on the group’s first reunion night sang along to every word of ‘Cliffs Of Doneen’, the audience responds accordingly, providing perhaps the most spine-tingling moment of the evening.
This is about as far away from souvenir shop Irish muzak as it is possible to get. You go to a Planxty gig and not only do you get a whole world of balladry and songs opened to you, it comes with a compelling history lesson as well. Some groups pillage the ’60s for inspiration. These guys at times go back to the 1760s, but breath life into the songs by the vigour with which they play them.
The musicianship is simply incredible. Indeed, when Liam O Flionn starts blowing on the uileann pipes the other three look almost as mesmerized as the rest of us, providing the core around which Moore, Donal Lunny and Andy Irvine weave their guitars, mandolins, bouzoukis and bodhráns in different rhythms. He’s also the main wisecracker, going on about the “erotic experience of the double bodhran intro”, although all of them pipe up with a joke or story at one stage or another, the audience hanging on every word.
And when Christy relates the background to one song, when the four of them were in a pub and heard “songs we’d never heard before, and time stood still for a few hours”, you know exactly what he’s talking about.
Music Review/Live: 12 Jan 2005