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2005-12-20 Dublin, NCH

reviewed by John

 

My favourite venue, and plenty to tell about the show. However, just to be a tease, I shall not have time to write anything before Christmas Eve at the earliest.

 

There was an opening act, four young Irish (I think) ladies with light soprano-end voices known as Pzaaz (I hope that is the right spelling) with striking looks and identical scarlet dresses, and who sang idiosyncratic songs - the last one of which was mainly sung in French, and very humorous and cute. It was their NCH debut, apparently. And despite what the advertising said, Donna was the guest singer, and not Deirdre (though Deirdre was circulating in the foyer afterwards during meet and greet). James and Donna did their 'That's all I ask of you' duet once again, and it is simply stunning - a true show-stopper, if ever I heard one. David still wasn't wearing that jacket; and still no-one has mugged him for me!

They opened the second half of the show with 'O Holy Night'. I am really sorry to rub it in, but it was simply wonderful!

and here's the full report:

The NCH, as I mentioned before, is one of the best venues in the world for my money - the auditorium is magnificent, and the sound system offers a separation of voices which you don't find in many places - thus you can hear each singer's part quite distinctly. This does not diminish the impeccable harmonies of the tenors - it just serves to magnify the skills they display, and the precise way they blend their tones in harmony. The stage has a elevated seating area behind (more about the way the occupants were treated later), below which was draped a blue (very dark blue) curtain through which numerous small white lights were shining - the effect was rather like a clear starlit night. I gather this was a hold-over from the Liam Lawton concert of the previous night, but whatever the cause for its use, it was stunning to see. The atmosphere at the NCH for the home-coming boys was exactly as you might expect - the crowd was buzzing long before the auditorium was filled (which it more or less was).

The evening's entertainment was introduced by Eric Keogh, a Dublin radio personality, who welcomed the support act, a quartet of sopranos called Pzazz (hopefully, this is the correct spelling), very young Irish ladies dressed in stunning scarlet dresses. They sang 4 or 5 songs (I have no track listing at all, unfortunately), and gave a fine performance for their NCH debut. They undulate their arms very expressively and are well choreographed, and their harmonies were close and true. The material was a good mixture of what sounded like Irish traditional and quirky, and showed good versatility.

After a short break, Martin Quinn and The Scot appeared. The Scot was not wearing THAT jacket, which I can only assume he had hidden because he had heard that I was going to be there. He should remain afraid - VERY afraid! It has my name written all over it!

James, Matthew and Niall walked confidently on stage after singing the opening bars of 'Ireland's Call' from the wings, as is their habit lately, and of course for a partisan crowd like this, it broke the ice instantly, and throughout their set the crowd were joining in heartily with anything and everything. Sitting next to me were Holly Morris' family, and one of what I assume was their daughters could virtually have taken the stage alone - she was singing away at the top of her voice - even James was able to hear her from the stage.

One of the drawbacks to seating behind the stage is that you never get to see the performers' faces - not so on this occasion. From the outset, all three made a point of welcoming those seated behind them, and throughout the programme, and especially during audience participations, there was a conscious effort to make eye contact with, and encourage the audience members seated behind the stage to join in. I suppose I should not be surprised, given the congeniality of these three singers and the attention they pay to their fans, but nevertheless the effort was noticeable and obviously appreciated by those who were its subjects.

At one point during the proceedings (after Niall had mentioned playing Las Vegas AGAIN (incidentally, he said that that is where they had their waistcoats (vests) made), Matt mentioned the warmth with which they had been received during their recent tours of the US, Canada, and Holland (and yes, German audiences got a mention too), but his confirmation that there is nothing like coming home won a great roar of approval.

Throughout the two halves, they strode confidently around the stage, frequently encouraging the audience to join in, and it was clear to see that they did feel completely at home and relaxed on home territory. Highlights for me were 'Caruso', 'Still by your side' - a very emotional moment, for obvious reasons - 'O Holy night' with which they opened the second half, James and Donna's duet 'All I ask of you' which suits their voices perfectly and takes the place of 'The Prayer' when Deirdre is not performing, and the Christmas Carol selection, which included 'O come, all ye faithful' with two verses sung in Latin, and 'Silent Night' sung in English, Irish, and German.

The encore, again as has become a recent ritual, was 'All out of love', which I think sounds far superior when performed live than on record. The descant notes which James manages to hit are quite astounding - and James, if you read this, take note! - the live blend of voices gives those notes more prominence.