Aslan’s commanding Live at the Marquee set brings back memories of Ireland's coming of age

As Aslan’s set climaxed with This Is, chants of “Olé, Olé, Olé,” rang around the Marquee in appreciation.

Given that we currently have a national football team playing with a sense of purpose, while next door the Cork senior hurling team had just put Waterford to the sword one could be forgiven for casting one’s mind back to 1990, a bumper year for Cork GAA and the occasion when Ireland became football crazy as it sang Jackie’s Army off to Italy.

Regarded as the time when the country pulled itself out of recession, it was a period where Aslan, a band who spoke to Ireland’s ‘80’s malaise, were in limbo as they had at the time split up.

They would reunite and record Goodbye Charlie Moonhead, the album whose 25th anniversary they were here to celebrate.

Joining them on the night was fellow Dubliner Damien Dempsey who, like the headliners, shares a deep connection with his audience.

Proving Ireland’s vibrant relationship with the folk song, both acts dipped into the canon. Introducing "the hardest song to sing in the English language," Dempsey and his band rattled through The Rocky Road to Dublin, prompting an outbreak of vigorous foot-stomping, fist-shaking and a chorus of “Damo, Damo, Damo.”

Later on, Aslan would visit The Green Fields of France.

Dempsey and his band were mellow where appropriate and powerful where required and they ended their set with a rousing It's All Good. The roadies practically had the stage stripped for the headliners by the time the chorus of men singing the song’s message of “Love yourself today” had eventually subsided.

Dempsey may be the more current and more active of the two acts but by the time Aslan took the stage the tent was heaving, testimony to their enduring appeal and resilience.

Wearing shades, Christy Dignam declared it had been "two years since we were in Cork and we couldn't f**king wait to come back."

The singer expends less energy onstage than he used to but he’s as commanding as ever. Their great hit 'Crazy World' was received euphorically but the biggest response, was reserved for their debut single 'This Is'.

Dignam spoke gratefully of arriving in Cork for their first gig in the city at the Lark By the Lee and being bowled over when the audience sang the song back to them word for word. Nothing has changed on that score.

The next Live at the Marquee gig is Nathan Carter next Friday 14. Doors open at 6pm.

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