Review- Christy Moore, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester

Christy Moore
Christy Moore

No matter how many times I go along to listen to the Irish folk singer Christy Moore he always delights me and I come away buzzing yet with an enormous lump in my throat from the raw emotion he exudes.

No matter that I’ve heard each song dozens of times and some of them even more than that - his unique delivery is such that you can never say you’ve had enough.

I first listened to Moore on a Walkman (remember them?) on the Liverpool to Dublin ferry en route to a weekend of drinking Guinness and sightseeing (in that order) sometime in the early 80s. I’ve been a fan ever since but have never had the pleasure of seeing him in his native land - something I’d like to rectify before too long.

He’s 74 now and though still touring, does two dates at a time, nipping back home for a week in between to recover.

We were fortunate that he chose a couple of venues in the north earlier this month, Manchester and Liverpool. Moore played his first gig in Manchester in 1966 and has a real affinity with both cities and a massive following.

I caught him in Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall, a venue that suits his style of performance perfectly. It’s a good size with brilliant acoustics yet is not so large as to be soulless.

Seated at the front of the stage with long-time friend Declan Sinnott and musicians Jimmy Higgins on percussion, keyboards, and backing vocals and Cathal Hayden on fiddle and banjo he belted out 23 songs in two hours without a break.

He may not wield his bodhrán stick with quite as much force as he once did but his voice is as clear and sharp as ever and his humour infectious.

It took a while to warm up the Bridgewater crowd and though Moore encouraged participation there was not the frenetic foot stamping and clapping we’re used to hearing.

Although to be fair, Moore has said that he’s had to stop doing certain live numbers as the rhythms in the lyrics are sometimes at odds with the clappers and the stompers and he is put off his stride.

Although setlists are put together they are fluid and often he’ll accommodate a fan who shouts out a request.

His back catalogue numbers many hundreds and it's difficult to please everyone. There are some that always make it on there though like the opener City of Chicago Ride On, Nancy Spain and Lisdoonvarna with lyrics that change slightly every year.

Many of Moore’s songs deal with loss, discrimination and oppression and no one gets the message across better.

Ewan MacColl’s Go, Move, Shift about the persecution of travellers, Viva la Quinta Brigada about the Spanish Civil War, Ordinary Man which takes the listener right to the heart of the workers’ struggle and Morecambe Bay which deals with the death of 21 Chinese cockle pickers who were cut off by the tide in 2004. It's heavy going but Moore never comes across as preachy or pompous.

Then there was Burning Times which he dedicated to the young Irish journalist Lyra McKee who was shot dead earlier this year and Lingo Politico which addresses Moore’s dislike of politics and politicians which was particularly well-received given the times we’re living in.

Does This Train Stop on Merseyside, was dedicated to legendary DJ John Peel, who died 15 years ago this month and championed the original song.

And then there are the love songs; Black is the Colour, Nancy Spain and my all-time favourite The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, another Ewan MacColl song written for his wife Peggy Seeger and covered beautifully by Moore.

There’s a new album on the way. Magic Nights consisting of 26 new live recordings gathered together from hundreds of gigs will be available on November 22.