Review: Andy Irvine – Out To Lunch 2019
Andy Irvine is undoubtedly one of the most influential and pivotal Irish musicians of this (or any) generation and was a deserved winner of the 1st RTE Lifetime Achievement Award. Whether it was with Sweeney’s Men, or the inimitable Planxty, or with his more recent collaborations such as Mozaik, East Wind or Ushers Island, Irvine continues to explore and push the boundaries of traditional music, bringing in a diverse range of world music influences into his repertoire. At times he has collected and performed songs from Ireland, Scotland, the Balkans and even Australia, imbuing them all with his sense of social justice and awareness, frequently taking the side of the victims and the downtrodden.
Tonight in a sold out Black Box, Irvine performs solo and is accompanied on stage only by his collection of instruments – I count a guitar-shaped bouzouki, a bass bouzouki and possibly two octave mandolas, although don’t quote me on that..
Irvine will never simply give you a “greatest hits” setlist, and again tonight is no exception. Some of the old favourites are in there, but he also works in several completely new songs during the two halves of his set.
There is a diverse range of material on display, from sea-faring ballads such as “Captain Coulston” and “The Wreck of the Dandenong” to more light-hearted songs such as the whimsical and tongue-in-cheek “Houdini.” Irvine catches himself on during the lengthy introductions to some of these, noting that there’s no point in talking about the song in great detail and then going on to perform it..
Irvine’s playing of the bass bouzouki is pretty wonderful. On the old English folk song “Reynardine” the deep, resonant bass notes contrast with Irvine’s intricate hammer-ons and pull-offs to create the effect of there being more than one instrument on stage.
There is also a plethora of songs about miners and mining. The bluesy harmonica of “A Prince Among Men” is nice, but the more recently recorded “Here’s A Health To Every Miner” is like a condensed history of mining at home and abroad, ending with the miner’s strike of 1984 and a pretty blunt dig at the Iron Lady herself. There are songs about mill workers and good old murder ballads and enough favourites to keep the crowd more than happy. “Polly On The Shore” has hints of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and “O’Donoghues” name-checks an entire orchestra of Irish musicians.
Irvine ends his set with a near-perfect version of “The Blacksmith” and after a little persuasion rounds everything off with an rousing encore of the Woody Guthrie-inspired “Never Tire of the Road” that gets the crowd tapping their feet and joining in on the chorus.
Andy Irvine was not on his best form tonight, truth be told. He struggled somewhat with the lyrics to a few of the newer songs and his sense of frustration at these times was all too clear. The crowd were both patient and encouraging when this happened, and the warmth in the room for Irvine was tangible. Having said that, there were enough moments tonight when Irvine’s unique voice and musicianship shone as brightly as ever.