Friday night is for dancing. If that’s your thing. For me however I had other plans. I was going to a concert. To see Graham Norton singing some of his songs.
Say what? Since when has camp comic and TV host Mr Norton been a singer? Well let me explain. There is another Graham Norton – a Graham J Norton who is an opera singer who, with his band play blues, jazz and pop standards as well as originals. He was performing on the top floor performance area of the restaurant ‘Avenue by Nick Munier’.
I tried to perform my due diligence before arriving. On Youtube of course. I found nothing however – when one shares a name with a famous Corkonian it is easy to get lost on the tube of you. So I had no idea what to expect.
The location sounded a smidge intimidating. A restaurant where the chef’s name is included in the title doesn’t sound like a place for the faint of wallet. I wasn’t eating however so that base was covered. I did put on a shirt and shoes though. I didn’t want to be giving Limerick a bad name by dressing like a tourist in Benidorm. The top floor of the restaurant has been converted into a performance space – an intimate area which is designed in a loungey, cabaret style, with tables and chairs for the audience.
The concert was excellent. It was unlike any concert I had seen before – with a string quartet, a double bass, a flautist/trumpeteer, drummer and pianist on stage. As well as the singer. The songs were beautifully sung, and it was interesting to hear David Bowie and Sia and Joni Mitchell sung in an opera style. His original pieces were also impressive.
Less impressive was the drunken quartet in front of the stage. I’m not referring to the string quartet who were spectacular. The drunken quartet seemed to be a pair of married couples, who looked like they’d been on the gargle since early afternoon. One woman in particular had that focused look of someone trying to hide how drunk she was. She concentrated just that little bit too hard on appearing fully in control. But the swaying gait and the fact that she fell asleep briefly at the start of the show was the giveaway. The singer very pleasantly asked the group to stop nattering among themselves about halfway through the show. All was quiet until ‘Both Sides Now’ was sung. Halfway through the song there seemed to be a sound malfunction. Why was the singer being joined by a drunken slur. Drunk lady was singing along, her eyes rolling in the back of her head. The signal from the stage was swift. No words were said but the message was clear – shut up or get out.
It didn’t spoil the show but it was an interesting spectacle to witness. The crowd loved the show. Even the drunks had fun, and staggered happily out when the concert was over.
Saturday morning was spent traversing the country to the city of Galway to go to the Arts Festival. This week Galway has been awarded the 2020 European City of Culture award, beating out Limerick to the title. While it would have been fantastic if Limerick has won, I can’t begrudge Galway the win. It is such a fantastic city – hopping with arts and nightlife and hippies and the aroma of marijuana as you dawdle down the narrow cobblestone streets of the Latin Quarter.
The reason for the visit – aside from just the festival was to celebrate a friend’s birthday. An important birthday in that the number zero is included in said friend’s new age.
We dumped our bags in the hotel and ran to the bus-stop to see if we could take public transport to Leisureland in Salthill. I have been to Leisureland on several occasions – but not in the last thirty years – it’s a swimming pool. A swimming pool with a big theatre attached. And why not?
The show started at two. We had thirty minutes. An elderly gentleman started chatting to us, and told us the bus was unreliable. We started to panic. Late admissions are not permitted. It was taxi time. As the cab pulled up, the old lad hopped in beside us and told us that as we were going in his direction he may as well join us. He was a friendly guy so we didn’t complain. Hailing from Kerry he had lived in Galway for fifty years, but hadn’t lost an inch of his Kerry accent. The taxi driver knew him. Apparently he has a habit of hitching rides with paying customers. When we left the taxi, having paid the old lad says to the driver ‘Ah sure you may as well drop me home then.’ The taxi driver smiled at him, agreed willingly. And off they drove.
The play was called ‘Arlington: A Love Story’ – a new play by Enda Walsh. Set in the future, a woman sits in a waiting room for her number to be called. She speaks via intercom to the controller. What happens when her number is called is unknown. Something ominous however. The acting and choreography and effects and set were amazing. The plot was a little bit indecipherable. The thirty minute walk back to Galway was spent trying to figure out what it all meant. I will wait for the Wikipedia page before explaining what the piece was actually about.
That evening over to the Big Top to see Bell X1. They were performing in a big tent in a field beside the river. While I know that Bell X1 are a hugely popular band in Ireland and have been together for years, their rise to fame coincided with my time abroad. So I only heard of them a few months ago, when this trip to Galway was organised. I enjoyed their performance and songs. They were efficient, clearly having done many gigs, engaging well with the audience. But as their cover version of ‘Let’s Dance’ by David Bowie was the only song I recognised I wasn’t as into the whole experience as the rest of the audience, who seemed to be going ballistic with joy at the music.
Afterwards it was back to town for some beverage action in the Quays Bar.
Today I felt slightly delicate.
So what better way to feel sorry for ourselves than by lolling in Eyre Square watching the French circus group Les Petits Bras doing a spectacular acrobatic show ‘The Scent of Sawdust’ on an art nouveau structure built for the festival. Some of it I watched through my fingers. Don’t drop her I was pleading silently to myself.
Lunch at a chipper and then onto the big blue bus back to dirty Dublin, where an early night beckons.