Wednesday, 16 January 2013

MUSIC REVIEW: Home Grown 2013

Si's Sights And Sounds watches as three of Derry-Londonderry's best-known musicians kick-off the City Of Culture year in style

The Home Grown Performers

When BBC Radio Foyle's Mark Patterson introduces the Millennium Forum's first live event of 2013 by likening it to a "party" that "feels like a "Clipper reunion", he's not far from the truth. For all three of the artists who will play tonight performed at the Clipper festival last year to deafening and joyous applause. One wonders, however, if they will be able to replicate the feel and atmosphere of said event in the confines of an auditorium. Well, we need not worry.

Paddy Nash and Diane Greer.
Although midway through his set, it seems that Nash and his Happy Enchiladas have their doubts: "We're more used to playing in front of bar crowds, so why don't you all just turn around and chat with your drinks?" It's a joke, of course. But it's also a likely attempt to ease the pressure that comes with playing a homecoming gig in Derry's most prestigious indoor venue. And it works; every member of the audience laughs. In an environment more akin to a very popular public house, there's a capacity crowd, loud applause after every number and good spirits – just what the doctor ordered for the first event on Derry's cultural calendar.

Nash and the Enchiladas are a rare breed indeed – communally warm, gently satirical and unapologetically local. When the idiosyncrasy of their instrumentals, dress sense and topical lyrics isn't rubbing off on everybody, they're amusing in truly unexpected ways. Like when Nash's "partner in crime" Diane Greer belts out the first verse of "Barefoot In Verona" through a megaphone and no one seems to notice; at least until Nash switches it off, that is. If he doesn't quite capture the open air magic of last July’s Legenderry occasion, few concerts could; and on the whole, it's an ideal start to the evening.

Bronagh Gallagher
From pulp about friction to a star of Pulp Fiction, then, as one of The Maiden City's most famous exports, Bronagh Gallagher, takes to the stage. And it's a real treat. Gallagher's deep, throaty vocals mix with a very jazzy backing band to create a uniquely versatile, booming sound, something simultaneously rich and unpretentious. Whether one chooses to be spellbound by backing vocalists Jordan and Shelley Buckspan, impressed by the rhythm of drummer Caolan McLaughlin, or amused by Gallagher's refreshingly close-to-home and amusing stories, the overall effect is the same: sublime. It may sound like excessive praise, but: a cornucopia of tasteful humour, tasteless (but good-natured) humour and a musical tapestry featuring (but surely not limited to) country, western, jazz, blues and soul; seriously, what's not to like? Gallagher's fearless and alluring approach to this concert is inspiring, the perfect tonic for a crowded Forum.

Paul Casey
Paul Casey is equally impressive, but what else would one expect from Derry's Mr. Dependable, especially on this occasion - his occasion, as he also organised it? Knowing that the Forum does not give his audience the freedom to stand up and dance, he sacrifices his more catchy numbers, for the most part, in favour of the more chilled-out, melancholy, drifting moodiness of his latest album, Big World. It works extremely well, exhibiting his well-honed musicianship while giving the punters a well-earned breather.

Still, Casey hasn't forgotten that we're also here to laugh and enjoy ourselves, and "Thanks For Letting Me Crash" and especially "Far" see to this, the latter song causing me to drop my notebook and clap along with everyone else. To me, "Far" sums up the whole evening; boisterous, bright and breezy, the sort of thing you never really want to end. And it hasn't, yet; there's still time for the audience to join Casey, Gallagher and Nash for a rendition of "Stand By Me" before the obligatory quest for albums, signatures and catch-ups, where all three of the stars are extremely receptive.

Other events in 2013, including the forthcoming Sons And Daughters concert, may yet give Derry more international recognition. But the city will never forget the power that lies within its roots – and what we've seen here epitomises this.

A crowded Millennium Forum
 (Photos by Gerry Temple.)