The word picnic is a particularly evocative one, conjuring up images of pleasure, enjoyment, and sunny days that never seem to end. While the sun may be letting us down outside, inside the Everyman Palace in Cork, Pulitzer-Prize winning poet Paul Muldoon doesn’t disappoint as this picnic’s host, serving up a veritable feast of poetry, prose and music in the company of top-notch musical and literary talent. Muldoon’s guests for the Cork leg of his Irish tour are Celtic rock legends Horslips and literary couple Zadie Smith and Nick Laird.
Interspersed throughout are Muldoon’s spoken word performances of his work, accompanied by house band Rogue Oliphant (Chris Harford, Ray Kubian, David Mansfield and Cáit O’Riordan). While all are hugely talented musicians, it is particularly gratifying to see Pogues alumnus Cáit O’Riordan enjoying herself on bass and vocals.
Smith reads a story from her upcoming collection Grand Union. She is a consummate reader, keeping the audience enthralled with her gently commanding delivery, but the best is yet to come. When she sings the opening bars of jazz standard ‘There is No Greater Love’ you can almost hear the collective dropping of jaws.
Later she sings ‘Summertime’. Her story refers to the legendary New York jazz venue the Village Vanguard. I close my eyes and Smith’s mellifluous tones put me right there. His wife is a tough act to follow, but Laird manages it with aplomb. He reads several of his poems, the love poem Incantation contrasting perfectly with La Méditerranée, about a marital argument in a restaurant.
There is always the concern a pet project with disparate elements can veer into the self-indulgent but the wit and humour of Muldoon’s poetry and his entertaining delivery overrides any such danger. There is an ecstatic reception for the rendition of Horslips’ greatest hits, Trouble and Dearg Doom. Three hours has flown by and the evening ends fittingly with both bands on stage and Muldoon performing ‘Comeback’.
There is an ecstatic reception for the barnstorming rendition of Horslips’ greatest hits, Trouble and Dearg Doom. Three hours has flown by and the evening ends fittingly with both bands on stage and Muldoon performing his poem ‘Comeback’. The audience leave this picnic sated and happy, with the hope that Muldoon will return with his basket of goodies and more talented pals some other day.