At 69, Christy Moore is still challenging himself. He is not just looking forward, but looking back and drawing from that. Over two nights at Co Clare’s Glór Theatre, the consummate interpreter of songs regaled the sold-out audiences with performances of extraordinary depth, expression and joy. Without his regular accompanist, Declan Sinnott, who is on hiatus to focus on solo work, Moore employed his ‘side-project’: Máirtín O’Connor on accordion, percussionist Jim Higgins, guitarist Séamie O’Dowd and fiddler/banjoist Cathal Hayden. Hardcore Moore fans, used to seeing him pared-down musically, were a little disconcerted initially.
But to witness the smiling faces exiting the theatre on Saturday night, after the 130-minute show, it was evident that the sceptics had been won over.
Christy opened the show on his own with a trio of songs, beginning with Jackson Brown’s plea for nuclear disarmament, ‘How Long?’, following with the sadly relevant ‘Ordinary Man’ and Moore’s tribute to jockey Ruby Walsh. ‘City of Chicago’, with a sweet slide intro by Séamie O’Dowd, then allowed the ensemble to flex their muscles behind the Kildare man’s heartfelt vocals and perform a memorable evening of song that utilised an extensive back catalogue.
O’Connor and Co added colour, but never overplayed nor imposed on the songs or the singer. Moore’s voice was as strong and emotionally specific as it has been in years, particularly on Ewan McColl’s ‘First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’ (this year is the centenary of the songwriter’s birth).
Firm favourites like Jimmy McCarthy’s ‘Ride On’, Moore’s own ‘Delirium Tremens’ and ‘Lisdoonvarna’ were speckled among an engaging and eclectic set. ‘The Ballad of the Faithful Departed’ was performed in tribute to its writer, Philip Chevron, of The Pogues, who died recently, and the segueing of the song ‘McElhatton’ into the jig ‘Larry The Beer Drinker’ evoked memories of early Planxty in their heyday. A two-song encore featured a heartfelt and polished version of Nine Inch Nails’ ‘Hurt’, followed by the ubiquitous ‘Joxer...’ to finish off a joyful and emotional night’s music and song.
Moore still has the magic and his enthusiasm for performance has certainly not waned.