Country king Nathan Carter singing The Banks of My Own Lovely Lee in his solo segment on a mini-stage in the midst of the crowd must be one of the standout moments in The Marquee's 13-year history, writes Joe Dermody.
The venue may have hosted everyone from Dylan to Diana Ross, but that piece of theatre was up there with the best in terms of total engagement with this audience.
— Audrey McGrath (@AudreyMcGrath) July 8, 2017
Famous for country and Irish, Carter has a voice that would breathe life into just about anything. He definitely rocked The Banks and Summer In Dublin in that intimate mini-set, accompanying himself brilliantly on a baby grand piano.
Some of us might want to deny the haunting charm of country ballads calling us back to a simpler TG4 era, but when it's done as well as this ... well, resistance is futile.
Of course, in a tuneful league of his own, Carter is more of a variety star than strictly country. He also covers everything from Labi Siffre to Paul McCartney, along with a wealth of Irish trad.
"It's great to be back in The Marquee," he says. "I was here last night for Gavin James. That was a fairly lively crowd. I'm hoping tonight's crowd is just as lively."
They certainly were.
Later he'd add: "I've been living in Ireland for ten years now, and one of the first shows I did was in Cork. I played for 47 people in Mallow. I'd never have dreamed that I'd one day play for 5,000 people in The Marquee."
Big roar, not just of approval but also a welcome back. For such a big star, he's very down home; you couldn't imagine Elton John doing requests for birthdays and hen nights.
I don't know if all his shows are this family-friendly, but there were lots of dancing grans and granddaughters all around. Everyone in top form, and singing along all night.
Carter sells out the tent to capacity every year for a very good reason: he's a masterful entertainer.
And, of course, there's hits and well-chosen covers galore. Starting with Living The Dream, the title track from his latest chart-topping album, and infectious C&W versions of Bridge Over Troubled Waters, mellow singalong gems like Caledonia, Daytime Friends (And Nighttime Lovers) and, of course, monster hits like Wagon Wheel.
Magic voice, excellent on the piano, he's also a fine accordion player, which he puts to great use for his chilled version of Richard Thompson's Beeswing as well as the upbeat dance numbers.
And plenty of chat too; not so much as to break the crowd's dancing adoration, but enough to keep people connected for an energetic near two-hour set.
Leaving the Marquee, I overheard a man talking to a woman: "I knew he'd be good, but not that good; to be fair, he was fantastic."
Which about sums it up. Carter leaves Cork with at least two new fans, that bloke and myself.