mon 16/05/2022

Stockton's Wing/Frankie Gavin & De Dannan, St Patrick's Cathedral | reviews, news & interviews

Stockton's Wing/Frankie Gavin & De Dannan, St Patrick's Cathedral

Stockton's Wing/Frankie Gavin & De Dannan, St Patrick's Cathedral

Waves of nostalgia and clouds of rosin at Temple Bar TradFest

Frankie Gavin & De Dannan: deeply swinging

Featuring two of the most celebrated bands in traditional Irish music, this mouth-watering double bill as part of the ninth Temple Bar TradFest drew a capacity crowd to St Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin. With incredibly tight tune playing, pinpoint phrasing and a powerhouse backing section, Frankie Gavin & De Dannan kicked things off in dramatic fashion.

By the time fiddle player Gavin launched into “The Wild Irishman”, his impressive bow work was sending clouds of rosin flying off in all directions. The second set of tunes, three barndances (including the great “Lucy Farr's”) plus another brace of blistering reels, harked back to the music of the Flanagan Brothers in 1920s and '30s New York.

In the two songs that followed the stylistic reference points were widened with vocalist Michelle Lally's powerful performance of “If You Love Me”, penned by the groundbreaking team of Edith Piaf and Marguerite Monnot. Here, the burnished tones of Gavin's viola perfectly suited the tenor of the song. First published in 1898, and sung by everyone from Al Jolson to The Fureys, “Sweet Sixteen” was a particular crowd pleaser, with seemingly half the cathedral joining in on the chorus. In “The Golden Eagle” hornpipe, double bassist Paul O'Driscoll and guitarist Colm O'Caoimh – both of whom chipped in with fine backing vocals  settled into a deeply swinging groove.

After a bracing set of jigs that paid homage to the legendary Sligo fiddle players Michael Coleman and Paddy Killoran, both of whom made highly influential recordings of Irish music in New York in the early twentieth century, the band let rip into a virtuosic trad treatment of Handel's “The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba”, a welcome nod to De Dannan's back catalogue. In his preamble, Gavin remarked that the former Dean of the cathedral, Jonathan Swift, had been especially unhelpful to George Frideric when he came to Dublin for the first performance of The Messiah – Swift, apparently, was no great fan of music. "So shall we play it,” Gavin said, “just out of spite?” Heroic work here from accordion player Barry Brady, who matched Gavin's torrents of note with ease. After Michelle Lally returned to the stage to dust down a charming waltz, “Now Is The Hour”, learnt from the singing of Gracie Fields, a final blast of tunes from the band's latest album Jigs and Jazz II, “The Yellow Cow Set”, brought the performance to a blazing conclusion.

When Stockton's Wing took to the stage the waves of nostalgia that rippled through the cathedral were almost palpable. The line-up consisted of three original members - Mike Hanrahan (guitar, vocals), Tommy Hayes (bodhrán and percussion) and Paul Roche (flute, whistle) - plus three eminently suitable players from the next generation: Dezi Donnelly (fiddle), Tim Edey (guitar, accordion) and Enda Scahill (banjo, mandolin).

With increasingly mind-boggling syncopations, Hayes even managed to bless himself in the middle of the tune without skipping a beat

The band opened with the classic slip jig “Drops of Brandy” in three keys, something of a stylistic trait for The Wing, followed by a careening set of reels, “The Humours of Tulla” and “The Bucks of Oranmore”. Powered by Tommy Hayes on djembe, “Walk Away” was the first of many of the band's anthemic songs. This being a cathedral, it drew appropriately understated audience participation rather than the pumped up chanting of the band's stadium heyday. And then, the most spectacular playing of the spoons you're ever likely to witness as Hayes accompanied banjoist Scahill in a couple of reels. With increasingly mind-boggling syncopations, Hayes even managed to bless himself in the middle of the tune without skipping a beat.

More classics from the past continued to unfurl throughout the night. Given that the band really aren't gigging much, it's perhaps not surprising that there were a few slightly shaky changes, but the audience willed them on every step of the way. The onstage dynamics were as much a part of the show as the music – Hanrahan and Edey bouncing riffs and ideas off each other, Roche exhorting the younger members of the band on his side of the stage to ever greater heights. The encore which the audience demanded may have been sprung on the newer recruits just before returning to the stage, but by this point the feelgood factor had swept everything before it.

This being a cathedral, it drew appropriately understated audience participation rather than the pumped up chanting of the band's stadium heyday

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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