These are three astonishingly talented musicians; the acclaim surrounding them all is justified. This evening turned out to be brilliant, with Michael McGoldrick on the flute, John McCusker on fiddle and John Doyle on guitar. The three of them put together created an incredibly uplifting night of music.
They complement one another perfectly, each adding their own flourishes to the tunes and picking up other instruments as the show progresses. In between songs the three share banter with one another, telling anecdotes with an easy humour. The smell of booze in the theatre added to the ambience of the night: it felt exactly like sitting in a pub with top-quality live music being played. Toe-tapping is a word often overused in descriptions of music, but there was rarely a point during the evening when my foot wasn’t tapping of its own accord.
We were treated to a lively selection of waltzes, reels, shanties and murder ballads, including a particularly lovely one about a woman who stabs her lover with a pen knife. These carefully spun stories are given lift by Doyle’s rough Irish tone. It’s difficult not to love a song which begins with the lyrics, ‘We all got drunk in Dublin Town.’ The atmosphere in the room was infectious and when we were invited to join in the chorus of this particular song, it became really quite special. We were also invited to dance at the front of the stage. This may have been a joke but this music does make you want to grab the stranger next to you and start jigging.
A ballad of McCusker’s which was written for his sister got the tears flowing: a reaction which revealed how close to the heart this music can go. At one point, Doyle mentioned that these songs are quite difficult to understand but that he loves the history behind them; they have been honed from person to person. It’s true, they are difficult to describe and it’s tricky to put a finger on exactly why they evoke such a range of emotions. These old, dark songs have a sense of history that is tangible. The group is a time machine, transporting the audience backwards in time and then spinning us back to the present to tap our toes gleefully.