Category Archives: Music

Film: ‘North Circular’ – my beautiful neighbourhood

From January 2016 until August 2022 I lived in a flat overlooking the end of the Royal Canal in Dublin . Where it meets the river Liffey. From the balcony in the kitchen I could observe the riverside Convention Centre and a block of gleaming, glass apartments in the IFSC. Living on a corner, the view from my bedroom was different – the Laurence O’Toole church on Seville Place and the statue of Sherriff Street and Dubliners legend Luke Kelly. This was the point where Seville Place turned into Guild Street. If you walked from the river to Guild Street and onwards through Seville Place, underneath the railway bridge, and across Amiens Street, you’d reach Portland Row – from where Olympic gold medallist Kellie Harrington hails. Portland Row turns into the North Circular Road when you cross Summerhill. The North Circular continues in a loop for several miles until it ends at the Phoenix Park. These are roads that I know well, and which I got to know in great detail from March 2020 when the lockdown was declared and we were mandated not to stray further than specific distances from our homes.

In early December a documentary called ‘North Circular’ was released. It tells the story through music, of how the old working class communities of Dublin are adapting to a city being homogenised for tourists and tech workers. This sounded interesting. It’s a road I had walked hundreds of times over the years – even prior to lockdown, it was the street I walked through to reach Dorset street to take my daily work bus to the Wastelands.
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Villagers – the soundtrack

My first-time seeing Villagers live in concert was about ten years ago. A friend of mine asked if I’d be interested in seeing the Dublin band. I agreed – going to a concert is rarely a bad way spend an evening. What I witnessed impressed me greatly – soulful, melancholy and reflective music. Villagers can be classified as an indie-folk group but that wouldn’t be completely accurate. The only permanent member of the group is Conor O’Brien from Dublin. In the years since I have seen them / him live many times – from an old church in Amsterdam, to Vicar Street and the Iveagh Gardens in Dublin, to Dolans in Limerick. Last night’s gig was in the Limetree Theatre in Mary Immaculate College in Limerick. Having seen them earlier in the summer at the outdoor gig in the Iveagh Gardens, I know that last night’s concert would be more subdued. Villagers’music is wistful and forlorn so there would be none of the braggadocio that is required for outdoor concerts. Last night was advertised as an acoustic set. This wasn’t going to be a Bon Jovi with big hair type of gig. This is no bad thing.

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Concert: John Grant at the National Concert Hall

In January 2020 I bought a pair of tickets to see John Grant in the National Concert Hall that was scheduled for May 2020. I had seen him the previous March in the Bord Gais Energy Theatre, and had been awestruck by his voice and music. Another show was welcome. Obviously the May 2020 show was postponed – until August 2020. Remember those innocent days when we believed that the pandemic would last a few months. That postponed show was again rescheduled to May this year. Did that show proceed? Of course not. By this point the concert was an article of faith. I was not going to get a refund. It would happen one day. That day was yesterday. On the fourth attempt, the concert finally went ahead.

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Live: Camille O’Sullivan in church

When I went to see Bjork in the Point Depot, back in December 2019, little did I realise that it would be almost two years before I would return to a concert hall for a gig. I have seen live music in the meantime – namely at a trad session in Gellions bar in Inverness, Scotland in July – but the queen of Iceland was the last paid concert I attended. That’s not to say I have not bought tickets. I have bought many tickets, only for the pandemic to postpone or cancel the gigs. I will be seeing John Grant in the National Concert Hall this month, two years after the initial purchase. When my friend called last month to ask if I was interested in seeing Camille O’Sullivan, my affirmative reply was instant.

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‘Cornucopia’ – under the sea with Bjork


The Bjork concert at the Point Depot last night was quite unlike any gig I have ever been to. On the way in to the vast arena (which currently styles itself as the 3Arena) I had no idea what to expect. My companion had warned me that there was no support act and that apparently the show (which is called ‘Cornucopia’) would start on time at 8pm. Glancing around I could guess that most of the audience was – like myself – of a mid-season vintage. We took our seats in block H which is located slightly to the left of the stage and waited. Continue reading ‘Cornucopia’ – under the sea with Bjork

‘In the end’ with Noel Hogan


The town of Dun Laoghaire was the host this weekend, to the Dun Laoghaire Vinyl Festival. While I remember my first ever vinyl record – the 7″ single of ‘The Riddle’ by Nik Kershaw as a child way back in the 1980s, I wouldn’t be a collector of vinyl. I was aware of the festival because I follow an old sociology lecturer of mine from my University of Limerick days – Eoin Devereux – on social media. He announced that he would be interviewing Noel Hogan from the Cranberries, about the recording and release of the Cranberries final album ‘In the end’, after Dolores’ untimely passing. Continue reading ‘In the end’ with Noel Hogan

Sinead O’Connor at Vicar Street – utterly brilliant


Sinead O’Connor performed in Vicar Street on Sunday night – the fifth night of her 2019 Irish tour, and her first in her hometown of Dublin. I was in attendance, having hauled my old bones from bed early on the morning the day the tickets went on sale, to ensure I got one. Some people had said there was no need to be so keen, as surely it would be easy to access tickets. I knew otherwise. Having seen her on three previous occasions (twice in Paradiso Amsterdam and once in Melkweg Amsterdam) I knew that these tickets would be like gold dust. Anyone who has witnessed Sinead live previously would be back for a repeat performance. Of this I was sure. Continue reading Sinead O’Connor at Vicar Street – utterly brilliant

Theatrical: ‘Redemption Falls’


When I read ‘Star of the sea’ by Joseph O’Connor earlier this century, I was astonished. That brilliant book concerned a murder committed on a coffin ship sailing from Famine-stricken Ireland to the New World. A semi-sequel ‘Redemption Falls’ was published some years later in 2007. I was in the American Book Center in Amsterdam on the day of release such was my anticipation. To my horror I loathed it – finding it turgid, incomprehensible and very, very dull. It was a huge disappointment – thankfully it was only a blip on O’Connor’s illustrious output and I loved his subsequent books ‘Ghost light’ and ‘The thrill of it all’. Continue reading Theatrical: ‘Redemption Falls’

Theatrical: ‘Kinky Boots’


Last night for the second night in a row I was at the theatre– my fourth trip in the past fortnight. Sadly, in this instance I had to actually pay for my ticket – unusual having developed a cunning skill of sourcing freebies. As one would only hope – I go so often to the theatre, that my diet would consist of congealed bread and dripping with a side order of gruel, if I had to pay for all these tickets. Last night I went full Broadway, attending ‘Kinky Boots’ in the unfortunately named Bord Gais Energy Theatre (which thankfully has been re-christened as the ‘Bored Gays Theatre’ by some wags thanks to the fact that it shows big West End shows – in RingsEnd). Continue reading Theatrical: ‘Kinky Boots’

A night at the opera: ‘The Hunger’


The Irish Famine of 1845 to 1849 is one of those catastrophic events whose aftermath is still felt in the modern day – Ireland remains one of the only countries in Europe (perhaps the only country?) whose 2019 population remains considerably lower than it was in 1840. Its effects still resonate. Modern day Ireland speaks English as a native language thanks to the almost fatal blow dealt by The Famine to the Irish language – the tongue remaining on state subsidised life support ever since; with only a tiny percentage of people who still speak it as their mother tongue. It is a difficult subject to discuss neutrally because of an ongoing discussion on how much the effects of the natural disaster of the potato blight, are directly attributable to centuries of English colonialism – a subject which seems largely swept under the rug in that fair land. Continue reading A night at the opera: ‘The Hunger’