One of the Irish Music greats visits the Black Box as part of the all-encompassing Belfast International Arts Festival.
With his mic surrounded by an arrangement of instruments the unassuming figure of Irvine takes to the stage with the venue pretty much full to capacity. Not wasting much time in getting things underway Irvine introduces the first track ‘When the Boys are on Parade’. The repetitive swaying rhythms and gentle twang of Irvine’s voice induce a strange hush over the entranced audience as the intricate lyrics paint a picture of a different time and place.
Irvine’s main focus is his instrument, only making eye contact with the audience occasionally as if to enforce a particular lyric or poignant phrase. The tracks originate everywhere from Scotland to Austria to Australia. Each has its own story and meaning. Engaging with the audience Irvine introduces ‘Oslo’, a track about his experiences with Norwegian folk singer Lillebjørn Nilsen. Explaining that he’s not sure if the lyrics or true or not as accounts to the amount of alcohol consumed on the trip, the less serious side of the musician is showcased, we are even treated to his attempt at the Norwegian accent.
During the interval, the atmosphere doesn’t dissipate in anyway as people excitedly discuss what the tunes mean to them, when they first heard them and what songs they hope are coming up in the second part demonstrating just how personal the music tonight is to each individual.
Continuing with the incredible picking and plucking of his bouzouki Irvine begins the second half with a song that is, in his words ‘full of deceit’. ‘Three Huntsmen’ continues to enable the story like delivery of the tracks established in the first half allowing the audience to be quickly drawn back into the performance. Next we learn about his experiences in Ljubljana, another track that keeps things on the light-hearted side. Irvine’s song writing genius continues to be explored as he manages very impressively to incorporate the complex names of the girls he met into the catchy chorus without missing so much as a beat.
As the set continues the audience become increasingly raucous. ‘The Close Shave’ guarantees plenty of foot stomping as the song winds its way around the interesting ways gold is stolen in New Zealand. Irvine seems to be able to squeeze more and more notes into every second during the song he can’t seem to shake, ‘Blacksmith’. By the time he reaches the end of the elaborate track the audience are on their feet chanting for more.
Not leaving the stage for the encore, Irvine is met with a wall of requests as people shout out what they want to hear for the finale. There is really only one option and it comes in the form of ‘Never Tire of the Road’, perhaps one of his most famous tracks. With plenty of singing along and more outstanding playing from Irvine the track yet again has everyone on their feet.
With songs that covered war, peace, love and drinking the one man band that is Andy Irvine leaves everyone thoroughly entertained. Pamela Anderson, GiggingNI.com