Amazingly – to me at least – I’ve been to three concerts in the last couple of weeks.
First up was Mary Black, pretty much my favorite Irish singer. Mary is a folk singer – and then some. I’ve been a fan for years, had seen her a few times in concert, and have about a dozen of her CD’s. A couple of years ago, she did what was billed as her final tour. Unfortunately, I missed the Boston stop. Fortunately, that final tour turned out to be a semi-final, and on her recent swing through the States, she made a stop in Beverly, Mass. So off I went.
When Mary came out, her voice was a bit – well, off is not the right word; she’s never off – let’s just say a bit “under” her norm. She mentioned that she was warming up, and that her voice would be fully back as the night went on. I figured that, at age 62, her incredibly powerful voice had lost some of its power. But damned if her voice didn’t come back.
Roisin O opened for Mary, and Roisin O, as it turns out, is Mary Black’s daughter. My guess is that Mary unfinaled her final tour to introduce her daughter to Amerikay. Fair play to her. Roisin was wonderful – a very engaging performer. But my heart and ears belong to Mary.
She couldn’t possibly have covered all of my favorite songs of hers – there are just too many. But she hit plenty of my high points – “Dream of Columbus,” “Carolina Rua,” “No Frontier” – and it was a fine night.
I’d been to the venue – The Cabot Theater – before, and it’s a great old rehabbed theater. It was a vaudeville theater in the 1920’s, and its funk and charm has been brought back. That said, they could do something about the AC. We were there on a cool (for late July) evening. If it had been really hot, the theater would have been pretty unbearable. Other than that, a very fine evening.
Last Thursday, I heard another Irish performer – Emmet Cahill – that’s CAH-hill, not CAY-hill, as they say around these parts. Emmet has a tremendous voice, as pure an Irish tenor as you can imagine. He’s often compared to to “The Great John MacCormack.” Of course, there can’t be three people under the age of 100 who would get a comparison to “The Great John MacCormack.” But I’m here to tell you that Emmet’s voice is a little more current than the voice of his predecessor, which to modern ears sounds just a bit orotund. (If you’re curious, here’s Count MacCormack singing “Maggie,” one of my grandmother’s favorites.)
And not to be a look-sist, but young Mr. Cahill has it all over John Mac when it comes to the looks department. He is absolutely adorable, and comes across as very charming and sweet. (Seems for real. Hope he’s not an axe murderer in real life…)
I had seen Emmet perform in Worcester this past winter, and that concert was fine, even though some of the songs he covered were a bit on the schmaltz end of the spectrum. “Danny Boy.” “I’ll Take You Home Again, Kathleen.”
And “Machushla, Machushla”???? Not quite as bad as “Mother Machree”, but, oy vey. Speaking of “Mother Machree” - in my book “The Horse with No Name” of Irish music - at the Worcester concert, someone in back of me requested it during the open request session. I am a bit embarrassed to admit that I let out an involuntary, yet audible, gasp. Fortunately, Emmet either didn’t hear the request, or he figured I might create a scene if he honored it, but there was no “Mother Machree.” He was more partial to my request, “Galway Girl,” a fun Steve Earl song.
Last week’s Emmet Cahill concert was in a lovely old Catholic Church in a Boston ‘burb. This was an odd setting for a concert, but it worked. (They had de-churched things a bit by taking the hosts out of the tabernacle, but it did feel a bit churchy. I almost reflectively genuflected. Talk about muscle memory!)
Emmet was in fine voice, and, while he did hit most of the Irish chestnuts, he through in a few more show/pop tunes than he did in Worcester. And he really does have a lovely voice and is a thoroughly charming performer. Once again, I was able to get in my request for “Galway Girl” there – quite fittingly, as I was there with my niece Molly, recently returned from a uni semester in Galway.
Molly wasn’t the youngest person there, but when I ran the numbers in my head, I came up with a median age older than my own. I may be flattering myself here, but there were a lot of older folks in the crowd. I do hope that Emmet breaks through before his audience dies off. (He also performs with the cute-young-Irish-guy group, Celtic Thunder, so he has another audience – admittedly with some overlap – out there.)
And then, last Friday, on a perfect summer’s night, I saw James Taylor and Bonnie Raitt at Fenway Park.
I saw him there last year (Jackson Browne in tow – with JT, not with me), and last Friday night was even better.
Bonnie Raitt – bless her – hasn’t changed her look in 40+ years – but the girl can still rock it. Lots of fun. James Taylor, well, he’s 69, and his look has changed over the years. For one thing, he’s bald (and looks exactly like his father, who I used to see around the neighborhood). But his voice is still warm, mellow and sure. And he can be very, very funny.
I’ve always loved James Taylor. How can I not like a guy who wrote a song with my birthday mentioned in it? That doesn’t happen to most folks. Sure, there’s “Yankee Doodle Dandy.” (A real, live nephew of my Uncle Sam, born on the Fourth of July.) And a few others where the date is noted. I may not get a mention in any song – there’s no “I’ll Take You Home Again, Maureen” out there – but for a great lyric, it’s hard to beat The first of December was covered with snow, so was the turnpike from Stockbridge to Boston. Thank you, Sweet Baby, James for a wonderful night at the old ball park.
The only downside was that, 200 miles away, the Yankees were beating the Red Sox…
Anyway, three in two weeks is a lot of live music, and I’m all concerted out for a while. But all three were great in their own very different ways.