It's long been a mystery to me why Christy Moore is not a household name in this country. In his native Ireland generations have grown up with him as one of the defining voices, at the same time both activist, controversial social commentator and iconic national treasure. Ask any of your Irish friends or relatives and see what reaction you get. Yet this side of the Irish sea, despite being respected and even venerated by a relatively small band of devotees, he has never quite managed to transcend the folk genre.
Despite this he is still able to draw a crowd and his current tour has seen him pack out concert and symphony halls across twelve UK dates. Returning to Nottingham for the first time in sixteen years and accompanied by sublime guitarist Declan Sinnott, as he has been for the last six years, there is a beauty to the arrangements that matches the silky majesty of the voice.
Without set list and with frequent and spontaneous switches of pace and mood, songs about division and reconciliation in the north of Ireland (North and South of the River), of indignation and social injustice (Go, Move, Shift) and of childlike charm and delight (Reel in the Flickering Light) all demonstrate his wonderful storytelling. Even the knockabout humour of first solo ‘hit’ Don’t Forget Your Shovel contains a barbed verse about Enoch Powell and reflects the often fine line between the comic and the profound.
It is all done with a sensitivity, intelligence and subtlety that justifies his status, but then with over five thousand gigs under his belt over a forty year career he has clearly developed a sixth sense for the effects of a song, for the prevailing vibe and the means of amusing, challenging, provoking and ultimately pleasing any assortment of two thousand or so souls.
This is a man who has sung solo in Carnegie Hall, on the Pyramid stage at Glastonbury, who once sold out Ireland's biggest indoor venue the Point Depot for a record breaking twelve nights, a man with an armoury of songs from every age which he can make relevant and vital to today.
We are treated to a second encore and the duo to a standing ovation. Cry Like a Man is dedicated to the memory of Brian Clough and the room is spellbound.
This week the Guardian named his 1994 Live at the Point album as one of the 1000 albums to hear before you die. His last album (Burning Times) was hailed as a classic and his live performances create as much magic as ever, the man seems at peace with his world and we enjoyed being a part of it for two hours.
Christy Moore played at the Royal Concert Hall on 21 November 2007.
Christy Moore website