Vienna 2008 Revisited

Belgian tourists in the Metropol (Vienna, Austria) 
9th September 2008

Despite the association between Vienna and Mozart, my husband and I chose Austria’s capital for a city trip, because of The Dubliners’ gigs in the Metropol. The reports on this website about their week in Vienna in 2006 and 2007 rather fascinated me and I wanted to see and feel the Austrian atmosphere myself. 

In the afternoon before the 9th September gig, we were enjoying a walk through Vienna’s magnificent city centre. When some young men outside the Operahouse, dressed in beautiful 18th century costumes and wigs, tried to persuade us tourists, to buy tickets for a Mozart concert, I answered spontaneously, “Thanks, we already have concert tickets”. My conscience was clear, I was not telling a lie.

The Metropol is a very enjoyable venue. The outside of the building has a yellow painted facade, one of the typical colours of historical houses in Vienna and the entrance to the venue is situated in an inner courtyard. As the gig started at 8 pm we thought that arriving by 7 pm we would be well in time to have one of the best seats. But we had not taken into account that lots of the concertgoers apparently came straight from work, and ate dinner in the Metropol. When the doors opened at 7 pm, a crowd was already lining up from the footpath to the entrance of the venue on the first floor. We mounted the staircase to heaven and arrived into what looked like a romantic, cosy early 20th century theatre.

It reminded me of the Vicar Street venue. It is about the same size and has a bar all along the length of the room. In the backyard there was a very picturesque outdoor café and as it was very warm in Vienna, lots of people were eating or drinking outside and even The Dubliners joined in. They just strolled through the hall, in the midst of their audience. It felt as if we were invited to a great party with The Dubliners and their friends. In one word: it was a great Irish pub! No wonder the lads feel so much at home in the Metropol.

On our chairs we found a nice souvenir card with a picture of The Dubliners on stage in Zürich, in March 2008. While waiting for the gig to start, we enjoyed a very interesting projection of pictures out of Peter Heinz’s archive, (the webmaster of the Austrian Dubliners’ fan site), and pictures of Patsy’s site of their 2006 and 2007 gigs in the Metropol, in Vicar Street and an open air concert in Norway. Shortly after eight, Milica, manager of the Austrian tours, introduced The Dubliners and welcomed them one by one on stage with a kiss. She told us with a great deal of pride, and rightly so, that she’s been bringing “her boys” to Austria already since 1980. The audience gave them a hearty welcome and the lads launched straight in, full of energy and enthousiasm.

John, Sean, Patsy and Barney addressed their public in a mixture of German and English. This contributed to the general atmosphere of intimacy and laughter among friends. When introducing Barney and himself playing the “Belfast Hornpipe” and the “Swallow’s Tail” John said: “I am sure that they are all “fertig”, but I am nót sure that they are all ready” - talking about Barney and the audience who greatly appreciated Barney’s stories and jokes and couldn’t stop laughing. 
All kinds of emotions are permitted in a Dubs gig. Barney’s hit “I wish I had someone to love me” gave us the opportunity to sing along and express the strongest universal longing of every human being: being loved by someone. Every time again it strikes me that the scenic structure of this song is built up so beautifully. First there is Barney alone on stage, with the others in the back and as the song proceeds, they come forward one by one to join in. The audience’s applause held on for minutes, and Barney, like a real daddy, said “That’s enough” and we all obeyed him willingly ;-) The first part ended with another unforgettable song , out of “the legacy of songs to savour” (quote from John’s poem): “The Auld Triangle”. Patsy sung it with visible pleasure and a strength in his voice that reminded me of Luke’s rendition of this song. The a cappella singing of the chorus by the five of them together was very touching. 

Early in the second part Barney introduced a “new” song, ”Three score and ten” (about a herring craft in times of war) from their album “25 years Celebration”. 
After the fabulous duelling mandolins with the ever young Eamonn rocking on his guitar, came a nice surprise for me: Séan sang “The Call and the Answer” a song about love and passion, composed by his friend Phil Colclough. I had already listened to this song on CD for about a hundred times, but I had never heard it live.

It seemed to me that this new touring season wasn’t quite the same, compared to the preceding months. Throughout the gig the atmosphere was very intense. I think I may say that we all strongly felt the “presence” of their dear friend and founder member Ronnie Drew and were very conscious of the privilege to enjoy a gig of The Dubliners. We were confident that at some point in the gig, John would tell us about Ronnie. 

It came in a very natural way, without the programme as such being altered. In the first part, Luke was remembered by John’s poem “21st Anniversary” and Patsy singing “The Dublin Minstrel” and in the second part we could enjoy “All for me Grog” one of Ciaran’s best known songs. From “The Rocky Road to Dublin” we were then lead to Greystones, were Ronnie lived. John took a piece of paper out of his pocket and slowly unfolded it. There was a spontaneous and immediate silence in the audience. He told us about Ronnie’s passing away, about their friendship and about his huge contribution to Irish music. We heard about the wonderful funeral, which had been a mixture of sadness and joy, he said, a celebration of Ronnie’s life. 
Before reading out loud “Ronnie’s Heaven”, the poem he wrote for Ronnie during the wake, he gave some information about the people mentioned in it and by the end we were all laughing again, especially when we heard Barney’s name. 

Quite appropriately the song following the poem was “Finnigan’s wake” one of the many typical songs of Ronnie that already featured on their third LP in 1966. Despite the silence there had been, Patsy had us all clap and sing along in no time. Exactly as Ronnie would have expected. 

The last part of the evening would also have been very much to his liking. The lads continued with a splendid mix of their masterful skills. John and Eamonn playing ”Saint-Patricks Cathedral” was a moment of pure beauty, it was enchanting. The applause held on for minutes! “The Hens March to the Midden”, brought about laughter from the first to the very last note and it struck me how much the audience appreciated the lads playing a very popular Austrian tune. The only thing that I missed a little in the Metropol, was a dancefloor. All evening people had reacted with such great enthousiasm to the Irish gigs and reels that I expected them to rise from their chairs and start dancing in the wide passages in the venue. 
On the other hand, as much as our legs and feet want to dance, I wonder how many of us, the “continental” fans, could dance properly to the Irish tunes? I suppose Barney knows very well why he always says: “If you feel like dancing, don’t” ;-)

Article & photographs Ria Voet, Belgium 
All photographs taken 9 September 2008 at the Metropol, Vienna.

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