Jun 30 2019

Greg Russell & Ciaran Algar

Friday 28th June 2019

Photos and review by Keith Belcher

This show had been a long time coming as promoters Ron & Hilary had been trying to arrange a date for about 3 years. The sheer number of projects that both Greg & Ciaran are involved in and availability of The Live Room presented a considerable logistical problem. When it finally happened, Hilary was holidaying in Florence leaving Ron to take the stage to introduce Greg & Ciaran. They did mention Hilary’s absence towards the end of their set but weren’t taking it personally.

They set off at great pace with the lively set of tunes that comprise The Warwick Road set, both showing their musicianship with Greg on guitar and Ciaran on very animated fiddle. At the end of the night Ciaran could have been found guilty of cruelty to bow strings. With no pause from the tunes Greg’s magnificent voice came to the fore on The Silent Majority with Ciaran weaving in and out on fiddle. Greg and Ciaran have a great rapport with their audiences engaging in humourous banter throughout the night.

The exchanges between Greg and Ciaran were quite funny too. Tonight, they had 2 fans who had travelled from Singapore for several of their gigs as well as what might have been their own travelling heckling team (in the nicest possible way). The audience were asked to participate quite early on with All Fall Down, this set the theme for the rest of the show. Great banter, good laughs and excellent music and singing.

At some point in the proceedings there entered a Spice Girls and Glastonbury element to the humour. Mercifully, (I speak for myself as a musical snob), we were spared actual girl power song covers, but Ciaran kept returning to the ladies in many funny (!) mentions. As well as the laughs there was a little politics with Line 2, The Silent Majority and We Are Leaving in set 2 which featured Ciaran on lead vocals. Set 1 finished with Crooked Jack, a song learned from Dick Gaughan.

The second set started as the first finished with a lot of humour, this time acronyms for tunings for guitar and fiddle were the subject. Ciaran deep in thought before coming up with Gerry Didn’t Appreciate Emma for GDAE. Thankfully Greg launched into John Henry sparing us more acronyms. Next was the poignant and thoughtful Lock Keeper which just happens to have a reference to Singapore, it also evoked another Spice Girls joke from Ciaran. I really appreciated Greg & Ciaran performing Icarus, a beautiful song I requested in the interval, hopefully the rest of the audience enjoyed it as much as I did. Banter and songs continued with set 2 finishing with a set of lively tunes which I think are titled Swipe Right before the very excellent encore of what seems to be their traditional closing song, a very rousing version of Pete Coe’s Rolling Down The Ryburn which lends itself to audience participation.

A fantastic night by a duo who fully engaged with the audience throughout, this wasn’t a finely refined and scripted performance, rather it refreshingly showed an enormous talent to give an audience a unique experience by their willingness and ability to ad-lib on the night which made it all the more personal. I think they would be welcome back preferably without another 3-year wait.