If it’s spring, then it must be the Gloaming at the National Concert Hall.
It’s a testament to the impact of this super group — of Martin Hayes, Dennis Cahill, Iarla Ó Lionáird, Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh and Thomas Bartlett — that they seem to have been doing this forever, and are already edging towards national treasure status after only five years.
There’s a thaw setting in outside, and the first words out of Ó Lionáird’s mouth are “Tháinig fáinleog”, a bit early perhaps in terms of bird migration, but he catures the mood. People are buzzing to be out, and the band, clearly are happy to be back on the NCH stage, for a week of music and, as Ó Lionáird quips, “pints”.
They open in bravura fashion, segueing in from the O Lionaird-led ‘The Swallow’ into ‘The Old Favourite’, where Martin Hayes’s bright melody is like a link backwards to a deep tradition, set as it is a sound world augmented by Ó Lionáird at the organ, and Bartlett’s restrained, judicious piano playing. He hunches over the keyboard, as if coaxing the right chords from it, sprinkling them like soft rain on an Irish musical landscape.
Hayes’s joyous playing is a golden thread through all this music, while Ó Raghallaigh is a probing, more angular, counterfoil — sometimes appearing in scratchy joust with Bartlett’s piano and its decidedly non-folky sound.
Cahill’s guitar, meanwhile, is a subtle presence. Ó Lionáird’s selection of songs take us back into Irish folk tradition, but also to the modernist sensibility of Sean O’Riordain.
His ‘Reo’, or Frozen, is a harshly beautiful meditation on death and memory, but the songs, reels, and tunes here are in the key of life.
The Gloaming are at the National Concert Hall until Monday, March 12