County Clare’s Sharon Shannon is in a league of her own when it comes to playing the accordion. No one comes close and for this reason she has worked with such a variety of musicians as The Waterboys, Shane McGowan, Christy Moore, U2, Willie Nelson, and Nigel Kennedy, to name a few.
On Monday, October 24th, Bristol’s Thekla become an all-seated venue, as chairs were laid out in orderly rows to house probably 150 people. Granted, some of the audience were ageing and appeared content to remain in their seats, despite the up-tempo Irish reels and jigs that surely deserved a far more wild and energetic evening. Truly amazing self-discipline shown by those in attendance, or was it redemptive suffering being witnessed?
Support came from Dubliner Eleanor McEvoy, who like Sharon Shannon is also a well-established artist, and has just released her ninth album, Alone. There were airings of tracks from this album including "I’ll Be Willing". It’s quite a journey following on from "A Women’s Heart", a track McEvoy penned in 1992. It was a track that became the title track of a compilation album by Irish female artists. The album went on to sell over three quarter of a million copies in Ireland alone and was (and remains) the biggest selling Irish album of all time.
McEvoy held the Bristol audiance captivated. She told stories, she joked, she played an energetic fiddle, and threw a major punch as she played her electric guitar. Her songs certainly don’t hold back taking on many themes and issues and this was clear from her opening track "Deliver Me (For What You Did)" from her 2010 album I’d Rather Go Blonde.
McEvoy pushed her boundaries by bringing in her own renditions of a couple of her favoiurite artists. There was Sly & The Family Stone’s (QRO tribute photos) "If You Want Me Top Stay", and her final track, Nick Lowe’s (QRO photos) "I Knew the Bride", saw an element of fun to proceedings and still the audiance remained perched in their seats!
However, it was a blistering set that was well recieved and will ensure a larger audiance the next time she is in Bristol. Meanwhile, McEvoy will be play shows all over Europe in cluding Poland and France, but may also see her playing the U.S. next October.
When time for the headliner came up, first on stage were the musicians on Sharon Shannon’s tour. Jim Murray (from Cork) – acoustic guitar, Dezi Donnelly (from Manchester) – fiddle, and Jack Maher (from Dublin) – guitar/vocals. Shannon took to the stage looking amazing as ever with a new hairdo and impressive shoes, which may have been bought that day as the accordian player shared with the audiance what a fantastic day she had had at the shops.
Throughout the audiance were treated to 15+ tracks from Sharon Shannon’s catalogue including "Blackbird" from her debut self titled album from 1991. Sharon Shannon’s warm smile were present throughout the evening, which only went to lift the experience further for the audience, as her uplifting accordian playing music filled the smokey wooden hull of The Thekla with uplifting reels, and other styles, not just Irish folk.
Not content with just displaying her immense talent for playing the accordion, during "Rathlin Island" Shannon took up the tin whistle in a majestic performance as well as her squeezebox for other tracks. Maher took centre stage for a couple of songs – Bob Dylan’s "Don’t Think Twice" and his own creation of the beautiful "Smile". Not too be outdone, Donnelly gave a blistering performance for "Mason’s Apron" and fantastic traditional Irish reel.
For the final song in the set Sharon was joined again by Eleanor McEvoy on fiddle as they launched into "Galway Girl", a song that has launched rewarded Shannon with many an award and increased her admirers substantially. Sharon and her band returned for a couple more tracks and at the finale all gathered arm and arm at the front of the stage, taking bows and enjoying the well deserved applause, before heading off stage, with Sharon waving enthusiastically.