'Hang on, I’m the only drummer here': Christy Moore in a different league at the Marquee

With Christy – no surnames for deities like Elvis, Christy, Aretha and Beyonce – you feel you're getting 100% of the person all the time.
'Hang on, I’m the only drummer here': Christy Moore in a different league at the Marquee

Christy has that rare gift of guiding an audience seamlessly through reflective topical protest songs, upbeat stompers and soft heartfelt ballads, raising the pitch to great heights and then quickly bringing the crowd to churchlike silence.

The night bucketed rain from start to finish. And yet Christy, engaging, ebullient and even taking requests, for just shy of two hours brought us nothing but warmth and joy – just as he promised in his opening salvo.

This was our first time seeing him solo in the tent. Unaccompanied, he’s simply in a different league. Was this the best performance the Marquee has ever seen? Is Christy the most entertaining star this storied Big Top has ever seen? I’ve seen a fair few myself over the 15 years of the series, I can’t recall a better night.

Kicking off with Ordinary Man, Black Is The Colour and I Love Politicians, he powered through his jukebox of career hits from City of Chicago, The Voyage, Cliffs of Dooneen,Viva La Quinta Brigada, Joxer and Ride On, before closing the show with Lisdoonvarna.

He also squeezed in John Spillane’s The Ballad of Patrick Murphy, and thanked Jimmy Crowley for teaching him Johnny Jumping Up over a three-night lock-in back in 1976. Returning for an encore, he listened amiably as audience members called out encore requests.

“What? Ordinary Man? We played that an hour and half ago while you were still supping up in Charlie’s. Nancy Spain? Yes, I’ll do that for you next after I do this one first.” ‘This one’ was a barnstorming Weekend In Amsterdam, “every word of it true” he said. 

Two young people sat in front of me were in convulsions: “Big dildos, blow-up dolls, snap-on tools and hairy balls; Vibrators, whips and chains and fanny ticklers.” 

This was one of several songs performed a capella, plus some with the bodhrán. Playing solo, these intervals change the emotion beautifully. But, my god and crucially, he’s one fantastic guitarist, sometimes savagely rhythmic, sometimes gentle as a dove. Just like his remarkable voice.

With two big screens overhead, you couldn’t help notice that he mostly sings with his eyes closed. Aged 77, singing several thousand words uninterrupted, no teleprompter. Outside of his musical talents, he also clearly has the gift of total recall.

Well, let’s say it’s a mix of total recall and muscle memory. Either way, this Arnold Schwarzenegger of folk was in the best form of his life. More than in top form, he was in Big Top form.

“I’d like to request that ye take out yer phones and share this next song, which was given to me last year by Ricky Lynch, called December 1942. I was born in 1945. Not once in primary school do I remember the nuns speaking of the Holocaust.” 

A soft and moving song reflecting upon the trainloads of people who were ferried to the gas chambers, Christy thanked people for their attention: “A hard song to sing and a hard song to listen to.” 

December 1942 is from Christy’s latest album, Flying Into Mystery, from which he also played Clock Winds Down, the Jim Page climate change song, which references Greta Thunberg, the melting ice caps and the destruction of the Amazon rain forests.

Christy has that rare gift of guiding an audience seamlessly through reflective topical protest songs, upbeat stompers and soft heartfelt ballads, raising the pitch to great heights and then quickly bringing the crowd to churchlike silence.

He (in)famously doesn’t like the disruption of mistimed hand-claps. At one point, he shouted out: “Hang on, I’m the only drummer here.” Then, with a cheeky grin, he gave the crowd the (correct) beat and motioned that we clap along.

One cranky auld bollix? Tick. One uniquely gifted legend of folk? Tick. With Christy – no surnames for deities like Elvis, Christy, Aretha and Beyonce – you feel you're getting 100% of the person all the time. He’s not bending over backwards for our affection, and so it is that we love him.

“Did someone say Bright Blue Rose? Noble call, I’ll give you that one.” And he did.

“I had another request for Shane MacGown’s Fairytale Of New York from an American couple we met yesterday. They came up to me when we stopped off for a coffee on the way down, and they told me they were going to the show. I tried explaining to them that it’s not Christmas [dramatic pause]. But sure, they’ve come a long way. Charlie and Margo, this one’s for you.” 

Live At The Marquee started in 2005, with the pandemic disrupting the series for the past two years. Only Christy has starred in all 15 years of LATM. Has there a better LATM show than this one? If there was, I’m gutted that I wasn’t there to see it.

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