Martin Donaldson with A Celtic State of Mind – Christy Moore: A master performer at his very best

On a rainy Saturday night in Glasgow, I made my way through the streets of the east end towards the Barras. The streets that had welcomed 60,000 football fans only two hours earlier were now quiet with only the sound of a few passing cars and the early evening rain hitting the ground to break the darkened silence.

I reached a bend in the road where I caught a glimpse of the shining neon lights of the Barrowlands and, at once, the darkness was lifted and the silence broken with the noise of concert goers and football fans mixing in and around the bars of the Gallowgate.

With a small queue already formed along the old shopfront of Bairds Bar and the call from the stewards to have tickets ready, we made our way to the entrance. Signs on the door confirmed “No cash machine, no contactless & no Switch card payments inside. The bar in the main hall would be closed and any drink would need to be consumed in the downstairs bar”. Welcome to Christy Moore at the Glasgow Barrowlands.

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A walk up the stairs into the bar to grab a few drinks before the show, you see the impact Christy Moore has on people of all ages and backgrounds. Whether it’s football fans still decked in colours who made their way straight to the gig post-match, consuming pints, or long-time listeners who have been on the road with Christy (& Paddy) since 1969, everyone here loves to hear the musical narrative of a career spanning almost 50 years.

The venue was already brimming with expectation as we made our way to the main hall, and after a short wait Christy Moore, Declan Sinnott and their musical collaborators walked on stage to a huge welcome.

Opening with City of Chicago, Black is the Colour and North & South, Christy set the tone for a sublime evening of entertainment. I can’t imagine any two of his concerts ever being the same due to the seemingly unlimited number of songs from his career.

As with most artists, there is an appreciation of the host city and venue. At times you think this is over manufactured, but Christy Moore goes way beyond his acclimation, he cements his love of the hosts and dreamers by delivering his lasting appreciation through his song Barrowland.

The touching and sometimes haunting lyrics of the set-list, together with the musical arrangement, are enough to make you feel every emotion. From the joy of Joxter in Stuttgart, the hope and camaraderie of the International Brigades for Viva la Quinta Brigada, the despair of the story of the Magdalene Laundry and the love of The Voyage, Moore paints a picture as colourful as any artist.

The social and political edge on which Moore built his many followers in Glasgow was in full view of the 2000-strong crowd. Fidel Castro’s name rang out as no Ordinary Man amongst the cry of the morning. Towards the end of the 20+ song set-list, you begin to ask yourself, “What song would I like to hear next? What has been omitted?” But, in truth, you are happy to be part of the cabaret.

The night’s entertainment finished with a rendition of Fairytale of New York and commentary from Christy Moore on his love of fellow lyricist Shane MacGowan. Leaving the venue, you can’t help but smile knowing you have heard a master performer at his very best.

Martin Donaldson

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