Having won a pair of Paul Brady tickets (thanks Radio Nova!), and really only being a middling PB fan, I went along to Vicar Street last night with minimal expectations.
First a quick pint in a great local pub, The Thomas House, and in we went, grabbed our seats, and about a minute later out came the unassuming singer from Strabane, Co Tyrone.
The night was nicely split between solo and band performances, with seemingly every genre from Brady’s past represented, rock, pop, some lovely trad songs and a jig/reel or two, along with several from his current album (Hooba Dooba), one of which was a gorgeous solo piano song – something to do with a mother and son, will have to check that one out further. Plus, he played at least 8 or 10 very well known songs, so really everyone should have gone home happy, and I reckon they did.
I don’t know if he generally tours with a band, but tonight he had two good players with him, a chap I didn’t know on keyboards, and Bill Shanley on guitar, who I’ve seen several times before as his main job is in the Ray Davies band, lovely guitar player.
Writing this on the hoof, so, to some highlights;
• A truly gorgeous rendition of The Island, PB just stood at the centre for this one holding (but not playing) his guitar, letting the keyboard player play the big piano in the corner, and play it really well, plus some nice fills on acoustic from Bill.
• There were lots of special moments like that, Brady’s lyrics which often spoke to previous hard times, now seeming sadly relevant again
• He only mentioned the country’s current woes a few times, and his demeanor throughout was very relaxed and good humoured - I’ve been to lots of concerts, but there really was a great rapport last night between artist and audience – the whole night was just full of good music, some reflective moments and everybody seemed to feel we were acknowledging hard times, but realising that nights like this, and music in general, don’t just comment on the times we’re in, but also serve to help us escape them for an hour or two
• A rocking version of ‘Nothing but the same old Story’ brought back to us the sheer power of that song, a visceral indictment of past experiences of Irish people abroad. And, ok, we’re not seen as murderers any more, but pariahs of a financial hue now perhaps?
• Absolutely amazing rendition of Arthur McBride, just solo on acoustic guitar, I have rarely seen a major artist ‘live’ a song as Brady did this one last night, especially as he must have played this one a thousand times before
• The Homes of Donegal was an anthemic rendition in the 2nd last song slot
• Many more highlights, which without a setlist I’m struggling to remember, but even the poppier songs, not necessarily my favourites, were very well done, and boy can he write a decent pop song?!
So, to wrap up, it was just a nice unexpectedly good night of music. With all the talk of U2, Van Morrison, Rory Gallagher, Horslips, Phil Lynott, The Frames (oh yeah, forgot to say Glen Hansard guested with PB for one song last night) it’s easy to let Paul Brady slip under the radar. A pity, because as last night showed, he’s one of our most talented artists of the last 4 decades – in voice, musicianship, songwriting – all of which he showcased gracefully and with good humour last night for 2 hours in Vicar Street. 9 out of 10.