Vienna 2010 Report

1980-2010: 30 years Austria: Still going strong

Vienna September 2010     
Notes for the performances 4 September - 6 September

For this season, we deviate from our usual habit of writing an overlook about the series of Vienna gigs after everything is over, but instead give you a fair dose of pictures and a summary of bits and pieces right away of what was still fresh on our mind. 

So 2010 marks the 30 year anniversary of The Dubliners coming to Austria. And ever since 1980, it is Milica Theessink who is bringing the boys to Austria. "Back then," she says with a wink, "They were in their mid-life crisis!" But the memories of the past would be an altogether different story...

The years have seen various different band setups, and now and then the occasional surprise replacement when a band member couldn't make it. This September, such a guest spot was filled on very short notice by Michael Howard, standing in for Eamonn Campbell. If the name sounds familiar, yes, he has been with the band before, filling the same spot in 2006; you can read more about him in our news from 6 September 2006. Michael stood in for Saturday and Sunday and on Monday, Eamonn was back.

There wasn't a single rehearsel with Michael; on the one hand, that meant no problem for pro's on their way to their 50th anniversary of making music, on the other hand you could realize now and then that they performed very concentrated to maintain that tight musical blend they are known for.

So what are our keywords for you, telling you "from left to right"?

Barney was in very good form. Now, we hear you say, "Isn't he always", and that's a legal question. It may be just the fact that we didn't hear and see him in a while, but yet let us point out that he was extraordinary great these evenings. He continues to occasionally play a bit on his "squeeze box", as he affectionally calls it - this time around, it was "True Love". Of course there are his ballads - this time he gave us "I Wish I Had Someone To Love Me" and, on Saturday supported by two local female singers, "South Australia", among others. His banjo pieces with John or Michael as usual bring the house down, or as they say in Ireland, raise the roof. The famous quips by Barney were there too, like (after "Finnegan's Wake") explaining that Irish wakes are more fun than Irish weddings and that the only difference between a wake and a wedding in Ireland is one less drunk...

What can you say about the genius of John Sheahan that hasn't been said already? Again, after not having seem them since Vicar Street in December, we were mesmerized by the unique blend of perfection and spirit. "St. Patrick's Cathedral", for instance, simply stands out as a piece of sheer musical beauty that, we are sure, will be listened to and enjoyed longer than the old cathedral will exist. 
He also works effortlessly on Latin tunes, but more of that later when we talk about Michael. But, don't be fooled, John is quick to work his art on the livelier tunes as well, from playing jigs and reels with Barney to throwing in joyous fiddle-made whistle-blowing as the train takes off that takes poor Paddy from the railway to heaven. 

Sean Cannon is the one that always reaches into his vast repertoire and performs unexpected ballads - not necessarily introducing new songs all the time, but he definitely has you waiting "What's coming next?" His tenor unfolds lyrically on melodic ballads and it bites like it should at the end of the night - at a time when there's no guessing what's coming up next, but everyone knows that the "big ones" like "Whiskey In The Jar" are on the program now. His humour, spoken in a cleverly mix of English and German, never fails to amuse the audience; actually, I assume most people would miss something when the lads are coming back out after "Whiskey..." and he wouldn't quip "Gut, dass wir noch ein's können!" (Good that we know another one).

"Fields Of Athenry" made a rare appearance in a Dubliners gig, wonderfully performed by Patsy. The song is a legend, but being sung at sports events, it is somehow a bit "overused" and it is wisely not performed on a regular basis on every tour. That said, it is even more refreshing to hear it once in a while if it is delivered as perfectly as Patsy did the first night. His unmistakable voice adds a breathtaking excitement and quality to any ballad. The second night, Patsy catched up on Barney's request to sing "The Nightingale" and there was no doubt why Barney asks Patsy to sing it: Ever since the great Luke Kelly, there was no singer that could give this ballad its easy-going, slightly swinging charm as terrific as Patsy does. He is, as everyone who ever saw him, one who masterfully works with the audience - a craftmanship that reaches everyone from the first row to the last standing place next to the bar, and it was never more evident than in "Finnegan's Wake". 

Michael Howard, literally rushing to help out the very last minute, did a wonderful job and added poignant classical touch to the show. His solos were "Planxty Irwin", a centuries-old tune coming alive on his guitar, and a south-american melody named "Sounds Of Bells (Sons de Carrilhões)" composed by João Pernambuco, and enriched by John Sheahan to make it "half Irish", as Michael would explain. For those who can't imagine Latin music at a Dubliners gig, we only can assure you: The applause was tremendous, the folks loved it!

Eamonn Campbell arrived Monday night. He doesn't sing, except adding his gravelly voice to choruses, and he doesn't play any solos, but from the very first twang, it was obvious that his guitar is the backbone of the Dubliners sound. He impressively proved once again that he is at home in every musical field. Always accentuating the overall feeling of a tune, he pushes the rousing songs along and he gently accompanies tender ballads. 
Eamonn wordlessly communicates with the crowd sitting at his side of the stage, with an inviting twinkle in his eyes, a small cheerful smile or a rock-music-born jerk of his guitar, and the crowd responds - clapping and stomping.

The bottom line is: The Dubliners, after taking their very nostalgic "A Time To Remember" program across Europe the last season, are back with a not unfamiliar well-proven highly crowd-pleasing show. They could not celebrate their 30 years coming in Austria better than with their big hits, reaching back into a huge vault of evergreens, now and then picking out something rarely performed or almost forgotten. After leaving the concert hall, the audience knows for sure why the band labels her current season boldly "Still going strong". If these few nights are what we will experience for the remainder of the year, then the rest of Europe will be very very happy!

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