The Milk Market in Limerick is open for trade every Friday, Saturday and Sunday – selling an assortment of foods and clothing in a semi-sheltered environment. While it is not a fully indoors market like the English Market in Cork, it has for the past decade had a large canopy over it, to protect the traders and the punters from inclement weather. A very pleasant place.
It also serves as an occasional concert venue for acts that might have a ticket-paying audience greater than the capacity that can be held at Dolan’s Warehouse on the Dock Road. ‘Live at the Big Top’ in the Milk Market can accommodate between 1200 to 1500 people.
I had never been there to see a show.
Some months ago while whiling away an idle half hour at work, I saw that a band from my adolescence- Deacon Blue – were playing a gig in the Market in November. They were also playing the Olympia Theatre in Dublin. There was no choice. I was going to see them in Limerick. As a student in my early teens when I first noticed the group, upon the release of their hit ‘Real Gone Kid’ I had enjoyed them. Imagine what it would be like to see them live, almost thirty years later. Would singer Ricky Ross be as lustrous of hair, and dreamy of appearance and voice? Would Lorraine McIntosh still have her tambourine, attitude and voice?
I purchased my tickets.
As Deacon Blue is a Scottish band, resident in Glasgow, a few days before the gig I sent a message to an old Amsterdam friend, who now makes Glasgow her home; to tell her about the pending concert. I was quite impressed by her response. She had worked on a Ricky Ross radio show in Scotland, when working in the prison service, and Ross had performed a gig at HMP Barlinnie, and that the prisoners from prison radio had interviewed him. Apparently he was a lovely guy. Always good to hear stories like that.
On Friday after work, I took the train from Dublin to Limerick, called into Rio’s Fish and Chip shop outside the station upon arrival, for a bag of chips. Onward to the Milk Market.
Owing to my time of arrival we missed the opening act. The roadies were getting ready for the main event as we entered the Big Top.
I kept a beady eye on the audience. Most were of my vintage or slightly older. I am certain old school friends of mine were present. Would we see each other?
The lights dimmed. Showtime.
It was an exceptional gig. The number of hits was impressive. ‘Chocolate Girl’; ‘Twist and shout’; ‘When will you make my telephone ring’; ‘Loaded’; ‘Wages day’; ‘Fergus sings the blues’; ‘Your town’ and more. The combination of Ross and McIntosh’s voices was wonderful – greater than the sum of the individual parts (and both are very talented, charismatic singers).
Then the opening chords to a certain number were played. The crowd went ballistic. Ross issued a warning for us to take it easy, as we’d have to maintain the energy for the duration of the song. At our age that might be a challenge. Suddenly I was thirteen again as I roared my way through ‘Real gone kid’ – along with the band and the rest of the delirious audience. It’s a remarkably happy, joyous song. ‘Dignity’ received an equally rapturous applause.
I know it is part of a performer’s schtick (with the exception of Van Morrison and Christie Moore) to claim that the audience they have just played to is the highlight of their career. In this instance I hope it is reasonably accurate. The waves of love from the crowd to the band was very real. The band seemed to be having the time of their life.
An excellent gig by a fantastic band.