The Dubliners have such a special place among the stars of Irish music that you almost feel nervous going to one of their concerts these days.
After all, they’ve had 50 years at the top and so you wonder if they can still produce the magic after all this time? You wouldn’t want to go to a concert and find they were only shadows of their former selves would you?
After the contribution they’ve made they deserve better than that, so it was with some slight concerns that I went along to see them last night.
Well I needn’t have worried. Judging from their performance they’re in no mood to give up their place as the grand old masters of Irish traditional folk music.
They were superb. They played many of the old favourites like The Wild Rover, Spanish Lady, Molly Malone and Whiskey in the Jar, which Sean Cannon introduced as being written by Metallica, much to the amusement of the audience.
There were also new pieces and an excellent instrumental called St Patrick’s Cathedral, written and performed by John Sheahan with accompaniment by Eamonn Campbell on guitar.
Patsy Watchorn again showed what a fine singer and accomplished performer he is with songs like Dirty Old Town. It was wonderful to hear the band pay tribute to the founder members of The Dubliners who are sadly no longer with us, Ciaron Bourke, Luke Kelly and Ronnie Drew.
Watchorn and Cannon performed songs that had become synonymous with their legendary predecessors; Peggy Lettermore for Ciaron Bourke, Finnegan’s Wake for Ronnie Drew and Rocky Road To Dublin for Luke Kelly.
John Sheahan, who we were told is a poet on the side with more than a hundred pieces to his name, recited two verses he had written in memory of Kelly and Drew. Both poems were very moving and in Drew’s case, amusing in a way that evoked a warm smile of remembrance.
Barney McKenna is looking a little slow on his feet as the years start to take their toll but there was nothing slow about his hands. They still sweep majestically yet effortlessly across his banjo fretboard … just as they have always done.
The Dubliners started as folk music rebels so they probably won’t thank me for describing them now as an Irish national treasure, but that’s what they are and long may it continue.
Next year The Dubliners are celebrating their 50th anniversary as a band and already planning another tour.
After their inspiring performance last night, I will be right there at the head of the queue for tickets and I’m sure there will be plenty of Irish music fans right beside me.