A lot of people were warning that after his Late Late Show appearance, 77-year-old country legend Charley Pride looked too infirm to be in the middle of an Irish tour that included Dublin, Cork, Belfast, Bundoran, Mullingar, Cavan, Monaghan and Kilkenny. How wrong they were.
Despite a stoop that slows his walking, Charley still has the onstage presence, and that southern charm, humour and charisma that audiences love. Most importantly, he still has a voice that could have sung jazz, blues, pop or country.
There was a near-packed house when Pride, one of only three African-Americans to be asked to join the Grand Ol’ Opry, crept onto the stage at Cork Opera House, after a warmup set from his brother, Steve.
The Mississippi-born singer has had 39 number-ones, but apparently no pictures were distributed by record companies for two years after his first hit, in case they provoked a racist backlash.
That voice sounded unhindered by time. Pride segued from song to song, all the time looking down to the audience, winking, waving, working his charm, throwing an unexpected Elvis Presley move and smiling as if he recognised old faces.
He has so many hits that people were calling out favourites and he taunted them with a few bars, before changing to something else.
He and his band, the Pridesmen, one member of which has been with him for 22 years, sang them all, chatted with the audience, and reminisced about the good old days and all the big country names that “are no longer with us”.
Standout performances had to be his mega-hit ‘Kiss An Angel Good Morning’, ‘ Is Anybody Going to San Antone’ and a more recent song that Dolly Parton gave him, ‘God’s Colouring Book’.
He said ‘Crystal Chandaliers’ was like an unofficial Irish anthem, and at the Opera House you could see why.
The show ended with a standing ovation and then another classic, ‘Kaw-Liga’. Overall, a fine concert from an artist who looks to have plenty of more years left performing.