The evening began with a short set by Mary's son, Danny O'Reilly. Danny is an emerging song-writing talent with just one EP-- Temporary Release-- to his name. Danny took to the stage armed with just his acoustic guitar, and you had to admire his bravery in performing to such a large audience to whom he would be mostly unknown. There was of course more to admire in Danny's performance itself. His easy vocal style put me in mind of Josh Rouse, and his writing portrayed a depth and maturity beyond his years, given that Danny is still in his final year of college. I spoke to Danny after the concert and he is planning to record his first full album in the autumn, and this will surely be a recording that is worth checking out.
Mary was accompanied on stage by James Blennerhasset (bass), Pat Crowley (keyboards and accordion), Martin Ditcham (drums and percussion) and Bill Shanley (guitar). These accomplished and talented musicians have been playing together with Mary for around seven years now and in particular, Pat Crowley has been a much-loved member of Mary's band for over twenty years. The warm welcome they received upon taking the stage shows the affection and appreciation held by Mary's fans for her long-term collaborators.
Mary appeared, looking absolutely radiant and with a rejuvenated enthusiasm that was obvious from the very first song. It was a pleasant surprise to hear Mary playing mouth organ on the opening song; Noel Brazil's lively "The Land of Love." This renewed vigour was apparent throughout the concert and it was sheer joy to see Mary performing some of the more popular songs from her impressive back catalogue with such passion, almost as if she had only just discovered them. Mary also played bodhran and tambourine on many more songs than in previous performances I have witnessed.
A good number of songs from Mary's latest album, Full Tide, were included throughout the set, and the live performances just served to highlight what a strong collection of material this album contains. It was particularly rewarding to hear Mary perform a couple of tracks from Full Tide that she had co-written with her son, Danny O'Reilly; one of which, the uplifting "Your Love," was written following the sad loss of her mother.
Mary told the audience that one of her favourite songs to perform in concert is "Columbus," a song that was originally recorded on her 1989 album, No Frontiers. The poignancy associated with this song is now even more immediate, given the passing of its writer, Noel Brazil, a few years back. When Mary launched into this song you could have heard a pin drop in the auditorium, and the emotion she was investing in the performance chilled me to the spine. Mary always seems to thrive on interactions with her audience, although tonight she may have been a little disappointed with a fairly sedate crowd. However, by the time the end of the concert was approaching the applause was getting much more enthusiastic, and Mary and the band returned to perform two encores. At one point Mary was talked into an impromptu rendition of "Song For Ireland" that was not included on the set list, but requested by an enthusiastic member of the audience who had travelled all the way from Munich.
The second encore provided one of the most magical moments of the night, when the audience were encouraged to sing along with Mary on a typically sublime rendition of "Once In A Very Blue Moon." Mary closed the show with the Jimmy MacCarthy song "Another Day," which Mary has often performed as her opening number and provided a fitting, rousing end to a mesmerising, accomplished performance by all on stage.
Reprinted with permission from The Green Man Review.
Copyright (2006) Green Man Review.