Berlin, Germany - 24 November 2013

Tháinig mé, chonaic mé, bhuaigh mé

The Dublin Legends First German Tour

November 2013  

(All photographs from Munich)

Tháinig mé, chonaic mé, bhuaigh mé – that's Irish for veni, vidi, vici. But I'm not talking here about the legendary words of a legendary Roman after his fast and convincing victory near Zela more than 2000 years ago, but about what might easily become the new slogan of The Dublin Legends at the end of their first, triumphant tour across Europe.


It began in the UK in the first half of the year – almost 30 highly acclaimed concerts from Aberdeen to Truro, interrupted by a short-but-sweet tour of Denmark; it continued during the summer months when they headlined three festivals – one of them a long-awaited appearance in Italy that took the fans there by storm – to be followed soon after by three absolutely overwhelming gigs in Austria's capital and a couple of equally impressive appearances in Switzerland; and it carried on in October with a series of sensational concerts in The Netherlands and Belgium.

And then Germany!

Needless to say, I was particularly looking forward to The Dublin Legends' German tour. I'd already experienced their wonderful music in Oxford and in Vienna and witnessed the enthusiasm with which the audiences responded to it. And now I was on tenterhooks to see the reaction of the German fans and fervently hoping that the concerts here would be as overwhelmingly successful as elsewhere in Europe. At the same time I was well aware that this tour could bring with it a few changes and would be to some extent a new challenge. For the first time, Gerry O'Connor would not be accompanying them. Regrettably! He was to be replaced by Paul Kelly, an acclaimed musician in Ireland, but relatively unknown to the German fandom.

But, in the end, any uneasiness on my part was completely unnecessary and totally unjustified! First of all, Paul Kelly proved to be an excellent musician and a more than worthy substitute – a “super sub”, as Patsy very fittingly called him. Brilliant on both fiddle and banjo! And the four of them harmonised so well on stage that if you didn't know anything else to the contrary you'd have taken it for granted that they'd been performing together for donkey's years.

If I had to put in a nutshell the reaction of the German audiences to The Dublin Legends I would say they were simply swept off their feet! All reports from friends and fellow fans who had visited one or more of the seven concerts were full of ardent praise and glowing enthusiasm. “Fantastic”, “amazing”, “great fun”, “unglaublich” (incredible), “besser als je zuvor” (better than ever before) – all comments I heard in connection with The Dublin Legends in Germany. But more than that – I witnessed it myself at two of the gigs. First in Berlin and then in Munich...

To be honest, I never dreamed of going to Berlin when the tour dates were announced. After all, it's on the opposite side of Germany to where I live and probably the furthest venue from home of the whole tour. Not that travelling bothers me, of course – I've covered some distances to see this band! Nonetheless, I opted for Munich, and never really gave Berlin a second thought. But then came “The Vienna Experience” – and I knew that Munich alone would not quench my thirst.

Of course my Berlin plans reaped among non-fans the usual share of raised eyebrows and critical remarks that I already mentioned in another place here. And this time I think some even branded me as mad as the legendary hatter. There were no flights to suit my schedule, so I had no choice but to travel by train. Even without delays an eight-hour journey each way.

But guess what? Those two and a half hours of superb music and wonderful craic were worth every minute and every kilometre of the long and tedious journey!

The Tempodrom itself is one of the most impressive venues I have ever visited. From the outside quite spectacular, with its white concrete roof in the form of a tent towering over the rest of the building. Under this roof the “Grosse Arena” (big arena), resembling – as the name implies – a circus or an amphitheatre, flat in the middle (standing room) and encircled by tiered seats.

I arrived early and managed to get a place right in front of the stage. It was clear from the start that I was among some long-standing and hard-core fans there – one of them had brought along his Irish flag, which he spread out carefully across the stage in front of him. And when The Dublin Legends appeared on stage and struck up their first tune, I'm pretty sure I heard a few surprised gasps around me as an Irish washerwoman opened the concert and not the accustomed lassies from Fermoy.

Well, I venture a guess that even before that jig was over The Dublin Legends had already captivated the audience in the Tempodrom!

The atmosphere was really fantastic – both on stage and off! The band was in top form – they never cease to amaze me with what manifest pleasure and seemingly boundless energy they perform; the appreciative audience likewise in top form – clapping wildly to the music, singing along with gusto and rewarding them again and again with loud and enthusiastic applause.

As I'd already experienced in earlier concerts, we were treated to a wide selection and wonderful mix of songs and tunes – there were old rousing favourites like Seán's “Black Velvet Band” and Patsy's “All For Me Grog”; emotive ballads reflecting tragic or turbulent times in Irish history with Patsy's heart-rending renditions of “Fields Of Athenry” and “The Town I Loved So Well”; amazingly fast and lively pieces like Seán's “Rocky Road To Dublin” and “Courtin' In The Kitchen” that fairly took your breath away just watching; poignant songs of emigration or bygone days with Seán's “Shores Of Amerikay” and Patsy's own “Dublin In The Rare Auld Times” – the latter he dedicated to all the Irish visitors in the audience. And not to mention of course their already legendary rocking rendition of “Dirty Old Town”!

No, I haven't forgotten the instrumental pieces! How could I? I'm sure it's no secret in the meantime that I'm an ardent fan of these. “Belfast Hornpipe”, “The Swallow's Tail”, “Cooley's Reel”, – they played them all and more; a great pleasure to the ear, and an equally great pleasure to watch the four on stage having fun performing.

But a new man on board meant not only different interpretations of familiar tunes, but also the introduction to their repertoire of a couple of fresh or not-so-familiar tunes.

If after the first half hour of the gig there were still people in the audience who weren't Paul Kelly fans, that changed for sure the moment he announced that he was going to play three reels on the banjo that he had learned from “the late, great, Barney McKenna”. That alone reaped spontaneous, appreciative applause. 

But it was nothing compared to the reaction at the end of these reels. Skilfully accompanied by Eamonn on the guitar, he thrilled the audience with a fantastic rendition of “The Maid Behind The Bar” (especially for Eamonn?), “The Boyne Hunt” and “The High Reel”. The fans loved it and the applause that followed raised the roof!

In the second half of the concert Paul performed on the fiddle a series of tunes that showed more than clearly his exceptional skill on this instrument. Again expertly accompanied by Eamonn, he played two beautiful Scottish tunes, the solemn “Macpherson's Lament”, followed by the sprightly strathspey “Laird Of Drumblair”, before breaking into an amazing version of the well-known reel “The Mason's Apron”.  And as the fiddle increased its tempo to a breathtaking pace, so of course did the clapping of the fans; the cheering and whistling became louder with every speed-up, and towards the end of the tune the audience went quite wild with delight. Even before the final stroke of Paul's fiddle the fans burst into thundering, foot-stamping applause.

Scene change: Munich...

I couldn't have chosen two more different venues if I'd actually planned it! The TonHalle, part of Munich's Kultfabrik – more than 20 clubs, pubs and concert stages on the grounds of a former factory and which the City itself calls “Europe's largest party area” – is a typical multi-purpose hall offering rows of simple chairs in the centre and standing room at the sides.

Like most of the visitors in Munich I had tickets this time for the seated area. Personally, I don't really need a seat at a Dublin Legends' gig – I find it almost impossible to sit still anyway, even on the most comfortable of chairs – but a seated concert does have at least one logical advantage: the audience can show their appreciation by giving the band standing ovations! And it happened in Munich several times in the course of the evening that the enthusiastic fans rose spontaneously to their feet to applaud – the first time only half an hour into the show after the first splendid reels medley.

A new setting, a new ambience, a slightly altered set list – Seán replaced “Spanish Lady” with “Peggy Lettermore”, so together with his beautiful “Fáinne Geal An Lae” we were treated to two songs in the Irish language – but the same remarkable energy and impressive brilliance on stage, the same unrestrained enthusiasm and effusive gratitude off stage.


There was a group of young Italian fans in Munich who were audibly quite delighted when Patsy gave them a special welcome. And indeed, I think it's exactly details like this that add that certain something to a Dublin Legends' gig and make it so exceptional – the warmth and friendliness the band sends out from the stage; the feeling they transmit that the most important people in the venue are not those on stage but those off; the various ways they interact with their audience, be it when Seán adds his little anecdotes and amusing song introductions in his unmistakable German-English, or when Patsy repeatedly encourages the fans to join in the chorus or simply congratulates them for clapping in the right places. Add all this to well over two hours of wonderful music – priceless! And the audiences in Germany acknowledged and rewarded it accordingly!

A friend who had visited one of the other German gigs put it quite perfectly: “These four boys rocked the concert hall and stole our hearts. They had so much fun during the gig, and we too.”

Tháinig mé, chonaic mé, bhuaigh mé – yes, that could well be their new slogan at the end of this, their first year. Came, saw and conquered... the hearts of their audiences. In Berlin, in Munich, in the rest of Germany, in the rest of Europe...

Review & pictures (all from Munich) by Enid, Germany





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