Who: David Keenan/Conchur White
Where: KIng Tut’s, Glasgow
When: Friday, 6 March 2020
Over the last few months I’ve been to half-a-dozen or so gigs. Some of the artists I’ve been to see were old favourites of mine, while others were acts which, at worst, I had never heard of or, at best, had never seen live.
When I reflect on the gigs I’ve enjoyed the most recently, it’s those that were less well known to me which stand out. Perhaps being free of preconceptions and expectations allowed me to enjoy the performances in the way the performers wanted me to? Waiting for a favourite songs and hoping they don’t mangle it a la Dylan can hamper the enjoyment of the night.
But now I’m aware of this fact, does it mean I come into unfamiliar gigs with some expectations after all? Will David Keenan, supported by Conchur White, at King Tut’s be the next musical obsession for me? I try to temper my expectations as I head upstairs to the famous old venue.Listen to the latest episode of the award-winning A Celtic State of Mind with ACE CITY RACERS
The first act is Conchur (pronounced Connor) White from Portadown. He takes the stage armed only with an acoustic guitar and a glass of water and launches into a set a of songs which display his talent for guitar and vocals as well as for song-writing.
At times he reminds me of an Irish Jack Johnson, while at others he sounds vocally similar to Olly Knights of Turin Brakes. His songs strike a fine balance of delicate finger-picking and falsetto vocals, to full-on chord action and throating, growling vocals. Made all the better when he confides he only found out a few days before he would be playing! Conchur leaves the stage to rapturous applause and attention turns to the main event of the night – David Keenan.
As with White, I knew little of tonight’s headliner, with some friends of mine making comparisons with a certain Paolo Nutini, but a packed King Tut’s had clearly knew who they had come to see. The Dundalk man took to the stage to a thunderous welcome and kicked off his set alone on stage.
He calls us friends and takes us on a ride around experiences real and imagined. He shows us the brighter side of a fantastical existence, but the darker side of life in contemporary Ireland. A few songs in and Keenan is joined by a violinst who adds to the sound immensely, providing a backdrop for the singer-songwriter to go exploring, or to provide a soaring, spiraling sound for Keenan to chase on guitar.
The songs and stories come tumbling out of him as the night grows longer. He shifts into another gear as his songs build into shapes which the crowd can call and respond to and sing along with. He exhorts us to , “Occupy the city with original ideas”, a modern mantra to counter some of the darker issues touched on in his set.
He leaves the stage victorious.
Old fans are with him, new fans are converted.
The night feels a little more magical for it.
Andrew RaffertyWatch Kevin McKenna with A Celtic State of Mind