The ovation was thunderous and sustained. If this is how our heroes are received for the mere act of coming onstage, then how rapturous will the acclaim be when they’ve well and truly blown the dust off the seminal album we are here to commemorate?
Back in the wake of the demise of Planxty in November 1975, the band’s co-founder Andy Irvine decided to continue the musical relationship he had began with Paul Brady when the younger musician joined the outfit 16 months previously. Less than a year later the pair entered a studio to record their first album together. Former Planxty member Dónal Lunny was on hand to produce it and contribute to it, as was fiddler Kevin Burke. When it was released the following year the album, simply titled with the names of Irvine and Brady, was instantly recognised as an important document, its place in folk history assured.
There has been much water under the bridge in the intervening 40 years but as the principals unite for this series of anniversary gigs it is clear that age has dulled neither their playing nor their wit.
The first half saw Irvine delve into his Eastern European influences with ‘The Blacksmith’ and ‘Baneasa’s Green Glade’ with its coda of ‘Mominsko Horo’, and the ensemble playing on all was mesmeric.
The twin jewels of the second half were solo turns by Brady on his rousing version of ‘Arthur McBride’ and Irvine on ‘Autumn Gold’, its melancholy accentuated by his wispy voice.
Even an encore of such downbeat bitter-sweetness as ‘The Braes Of Moneymore’ and ‘Paddy’s Green Shamrock Shore’ could not diminish the sense of triumph.
How great an achievement it is to have forged such a timeless album. But how much more marvellous it is to still be here to play it and, if anything, improve upon it.
“We might be back again in another 40 years,” said Irvine at the end. Could we ever be so lucky?
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