If I ever had any doubts about the power of live music, this year would have totally restored my faith.
For instance, I’d be agnostic about Elton John, but he was a real pro at the Marquee in Cork, belting out so many classic hits once he got some of his new songs out of the way. Even at the age of 70, he also seemed genuinely appreciative of the brilliant reception he got.
Young Fathers were my highlight of the Electric Picnic and really are an awesome live force. I saw Kamasi Washington at the NCH, but even he was overshadowed by Kenny Garrett and his band at the Everyman for the Guinness Cork Jazz Festival.
If I was presenting an overall award, though, Mary Hickson and her Sounds From A Safe Harbour would easily win it. It wasn’t just having the likes of Bon Iver and The National playing various gigs around Cork — the musicians also seemed to buy into the whole spirit of the festival, and it all felt refreshingly uncorporate and egoless.
It wasn’t a vintage year for albums in my sphere, but Damn by Kendrick Lamar (pictured) got the most plays.
I get tired at the thought of the amount of work that must have gone into the Atlas Of The Irish Revolution. And while much has been made of its size, I was also very happy to feel the quality. An incredible production. I haven’t finished it yet, but I presume it ends with the line ‘...and they all lived happily ever after”. A book I haven’t read, but still feel deserves heaps of praise is A Force for Justice: The Maurice McCabe Story, by Michael Clifford. Obviously, McCabe is great man who did us all a service, but I’d imagine Clifford’s task as a journalist who was helping to challenge parts of Ireland’s powerful establishment wasn’t an easy one either.
I’m a sucker for a good war film, and Mark Rylance is one of the best actors on the planet, so it was great that Dunkirk really delivered.
Specific sites refreshed the parts that other productions just couldn’t reach. I can’t claim to have understood all of the meandering’s of Enda Walsh’s mind in The Same at the former Cork Prison, but the playwright, Corcadorca and actors Catherine and Eileen Walsh still made for a winning combination.
In Dublin, Anu’s play, The Sin Eaters, at Poolbeg got mixed reviews, but I was blown away by it. It’s difficult for creatives to get an angle on what went on in Magdalene laundries and similar institutions, possibly as it’s still so raw, but Anu created something very powerful.
The golden age continues with big and brilliant drama — Game of Thrones, Handmaid’s Tale,
Mindhunter, Stranger Things. And fair play to Prime Time for exposing issues such as hospital waiting lists, chancer consultants, the madness of the District Courts, etc.
The interview I most enjoyed was artist Dorothy Cross on Second Captains on RTÉ Radio 1. Despite being one of our top artists, Cross doesn’t get bogged down in ‘artspeak’, and that chat featured tales of her champion swimming days, her love of the underwater world, and her yet-unrealised plans to carry a human heart up the River Lee on the bow of a navy ship. Bring it on.
Despite the brave efforts of other venues, we’re still feeling the loss of the Pav and the Savoy in Cork.
As the planet goes down the tubes, people like Colin Stafford-Johnson and Bruce Parry have become more important than ever, and it was a pleasure to find both of them are as engaging in real life as they are on the TV. Meeting Michael Morpurgo at Towers & Tales in Lismore was also a buzz.
LOOKING FORWARD TO...
Young Fathers at It Takes A Village in Trabolgan. Microdisney reunion. Game of Thrones finale.