Friday 4th February 2022
Photos and review by Keith Belcher
Shows in January were cancelled due to Omicron, so this year’s bumper set of shows opened with the long awaited Flook debut. This had been rescheduled due to you know what. Obviously disappointing that shows were cancelled, especially for Ron and Hilary and the club who have worked above and beyond the cause throughout the last 2 years.
Flook were well worth the wait. This extremely well-regarded band have been playing together for about 27 years. Unusually, largely the same line up all that time. Other members have been their good friends Mike McGoldrick and Damien O’Kane. Flook are Sarah Allen, flute, alto flute and accordion. Ed Boyd, guitar and bouzouki, John Joe Kelly, bodhrán and Brian Finnegan, wooden flutes, low whistle and tin whistle.
Not the most prolific of recorders with last album Ancora released in 2019 after a 15 year gap since 2005’s Haven with only a couple of albums before that. Practising together must pose some problems with Sarah living in London, Ed in Somerset, John Joe in Sligo and Brian in Armagh. Tonight they gave us 2 sets of mainly high energy, beautifully played tunes mostly from the Ancora and Haven albums although I think Grannie in the Attic and the final encore, Rosbeg, were from 2002’s Rubai. Unlike most bands that play tunes they introduced almost every tune by name and background. I really wish more would do that.
They opened the show with the marches Ómós Sheamuis / The Quickenbeam from Ancora and the first set was mainly from that album. A very croaky Ed did his best with the introductions during set 1 but he was struggling a little. His guitar playing was, however, outstanding as was the musicianship of everyone on stage. Mixtures of marches, jigs, reels and waltzes, fast and slow. The tunes effortlessly flowed all night. As with other bands playing their first shows since a couple of years of restrictions the newfound freedom was palpable throughout the night. Most musicians seem to have missed being on stage as much as we have missed them being there so there was a reciprocal energy flow between stage and audience.
It was a symmetrically arranged stage with Sarah standing on the audiences left and Brian on the right. Seated between them were Ed and John Joe. Sarah in fact stood on one leg (right, if interested) for a large part of the night in what looked to me like a variation of the yoga tree pose (Vriksasana). Amazing balance, I fall over after a few seconds!
As well as their own instruments they had the audience making trombone sounds in Grannie in the Attic (Rubai). The audience was a semi capacity seated and standing 250 in total. Many attendees were newcomers to TLR, always nice to see new members. Strangely enough the audiences seem to be getting younger (actually everyone looks younger to me).They were extremely knowledgeable and enthusiastic but always respectful and listened and participated beautifully.
The well-paced first set really flew by and judging by the very long queue for the socially distanced, screened Merch desk it was very well appreciated.
Set 2 opened with Reel for Rubik (Ancora)and the remainder of the set was every bit as captivating as Set 1. Intros were shared far more by Brian and Sarah in set 2 giving Ed’s throat a bit of a break. A lot of humour in the intros especially when Brian talked about the custom of burying a horse’s skull in old Irish front rooms to make the dancing sound better. This triggered references to Father Ted and Divine Comedy’s My Lovely Horse.
There were also some touching moments. They talked about their last visit to Saltaire which according to my recording was 13th September 2014 at The Victoria Hall just up the road. I was at that gig and the day after at Waterside Arts, Sale both promoted by the late and greatly missed Simon Heginbotham, long time musical agent and promoter who passed away in April 2018. Dervish always got Simon up dancing whenever they played Saltaire. They paid a tribute to Simon by performing a tune from Ancora entitled Jig For Simon. They were recording the album and song at the time of hearing of his passing.
A cracking set with John Joe Kelly with an extended solo demonstrating just why he is so highly regarded amongst bodhrán players. All too soon it came to an end with an encore of a couple of waltzes Rosbeg and If Only a Little. A superb night. The Merch queue formed yet again. Let’s hope it isn’t another 8 years before we see them again in the area.
Next gig up at TLR is another debut. This time the very excellent Paul McKenna band on Sunday 13th February. I’ve seen them a few times in Scotland and they are really worth seeing.