Mary Coughlan
  • By Sue Bevan
  • |
  • 8th Aug 2014
  • |
  • ★★★★★

This is the best I’ve seen and heard of the great Irish jazz and blues singer. For sure that’s partly down to the tremendous outfit she’s with: other than his beautiful solo breaks, pianist and rising star on the Irish jazz scene Johnny Taylor doesn’t take his eyes off her for the entire set. Ireland-residing US bassist Dan Bodwell is sublime. They’re a dream team.

​This is the best I’ve seen and heard of the great Irish jazz and blues singer.

But it’s also about Coughlan seemingly so comfortable now in her own skin. Gone are the days when she, “was in rehab thirty-two times in three years.” God forbid she went the same tragic way as other great artists in her field. This woman is a poet. A poet with a sharp sardonic wit and a turn of phrase to catch you right off guard. And she’s brutally honest. Remarkably so. And remarkably talented. Coughlan took an interesting and exciting new direction with her most recent album, ‘The House of Ill Repute’. There’s more than a touch of Kurt Weill about it. But it’s her smoky blues and jazz numbers that do it best for the crowd. The woman next to me wipes away a tear through ‘You Can’t Make Me Love You’. The man from Finland says she was the first thing on his list when he flew in. Sounds like she always will be. You can feel the pulse of the audience through the heart-rending Doublecross. They breathe as one.

This was the ideal venue for her, too. The Spiegeltent’s rich burgundy velvet décor absorbs her soulful sounds. It holds her. As she sits out the instrumentals, her feet swing playfully childlike in their shiny little black patent numbers. Coughlan is at home here. “I love this tent,” she says. Now they’re off on tour together – a perfect marriage of styles.

In Cambridge, when I saw her last, some numbers felt a little rushed. None of that tonight. This was Mary Coughlan stroking every heartstring going. Give me this any day. Every day.

Reviews by Sue Bevan

Dixon Place

The Unwritten Law

The Jazz Bar

Remembering Chet

Just the Tonic at The Mash House

Have Fun

theSpace on North Bridge

Angel: Take This Body

Underbelly, Cowgate


Freestival St Mary's

Alasdair Lists Everything

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £600,000 to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now



The Blurb

‘Mother of five and grandmother of one, so far, she is an unlikely but transfixing performer, whether standing on one leg on a vertiginous high heel or kicking off her shoes to whisper, growl, or cry out loud’ (Financial Times). ‘Mary Coughlan is Ireland’s answer to Peggy Lee, though her husky gin-soaked voice has been compared to Billie Holiday. At times she sounds more like an incredibly relaxed KD Lang or Edith Piaf’ (Times). An Irish theatrical torch-blues legend. ‘Bitter, seductive, raunchy, contemptuous…’ (Mojo). ‘Tom Waits has met his Irish match’ **** (Guardian).

Most Popular See More

Frozen the Musical

From £30.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Tina - The Tina Turner Musical

From £12.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Play That Goes Wrong

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Come From Away

From £18.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Mary Poppins

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Cinderella The Musical

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets