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2008-07-19 Munich

reviewed by John

I arrived in Munich on the morning of the concert having heard diametrically opposing weather forecasts from various friends. As it turned out they were all correct. On arrival, the sun was really beating down, and it was humid too. My hosts met me at the airport, and we drove into the city (via a sometimes circuitous route!), and found our way to the hotel we were booked into after navigating various diversions, since the majority of the city centre was closed off to all but pedestrians due to street celebrations to mark the 850th anniversary of Munich's establishment. The place was overflowing with street performers of all kinds, and throngs of people were wandering around taking full advantage of the free entertainment and capitalising on the simply glorious weather. I was
also taken into Dalmayers - may not mean much to anyone not living in Germany, where it is apparently nationally renowned, but it bears comparison with visiting the food hall in Harrods in London - full of exquisite foodstuffs, and most especially (for me), wonderful cake creations. The exterior of the store can best be described as VERY yellow. Quite eye-catching, and unmissable if anyone should
visit the city for the first time.

After a relaxing afternoon's wandering and dinner with friends we all made our way together to the venue, which was, of course, open air in a courtyard within The Residenz (which is pretty enormous). The stage was high and square at one end of the courtyard, and it was covered (which assumed considerable significance later on), and as we went to our seats I could spot certain performers peeping out of windows behind the stage to assess their audience. After some rather risqué gesticulations, we took our seats just before 8, and promptly on the hour Colm and Robbie made their way to their positions on stage. Within seconds they were cranking up the atmosphere as they played the spirited opening bars to 'I'll tell me ma', and Matthew, Daryl and James came bounding out from behind the stage and almost literally leapt up the steps to the stage to rapturous applause. (One has to wonder how long that speed of entry can be sustained, of course, by ALL parties, but it might be insensitive to mention it). In my experience, German audiences are frequently very much like British ones, in that they are somewhat reserved and therefore slow to warm up; not so this one.

Whether it was because there were a number of stalwart German fans of long-standing (note, not 'old' fans) there, or whether the audience was so happy to see the CTs back in Germany after what seems like a very long absence, I am not sure, but there were certainly few inhibitions from the word go on this night. The clear warm night air was very relaxing, and maybe that too had an impact,
but there could be no doubt that the whole audience took the entertainers to the hearts from the first song.

The last time I saw Colm and Robbie supporting the tenors was, I believe, in Delft last February. I am fairly sure that I commented then on two things - the stunning expertise of both musicians on their respective instruments, and the powerful combination they make when together - definitely a case of the sum being even greater than the component parts. Colm plays the piano with passion and with
empathy, and Robbie is a virtuoso guitarist, but in concert they play off each other to perfection. There were moments, especially during Ten Thousand Tears, when crescendos on staccato runs from the two of them in unison were thunderous, startling, and as good as stole the spotlight.

The list of songs which Rianne has provided is factual, and most songs are well known. However, there are one or two comments worthy of making, even in respect of the latter category. No concert for me is complete without Caledonia, which I still maintain is the perfect vehicle for the timbres and harmonies of these three gentlemen. I have noticed that I have grown very much to listen out for Daryl's slightly more interpretive handling of his verse than is the case with the recorded version, and enjoy the contrast it provides immensely. After this week's exchanges, I think it is also fair of me to reveal that the low register harmonies utilised by one of the stars are simply exquisite. And beautifully easy on the ear!

Finnegan's Wake is a new one for me. I had never heard it performed on stage before, but was immediately caught up in the boisterous audience participation - one of those wonderful Irish bundles of fun in which it is impossible not to get caught up.

Song for Ireland I should very much like to have on CD. I have versions by Deirdre and Donna, of course, but it seems that no matter who sings the song, it is overpoweringly beautiful to listen to -the mark of a song of the highest calibre and communication skills second to none. It has sentiments which compare favourably to another of those intensely patriotic songs, the non-specific Anthem,
and is so beautiful it can bring tears to the eyes of all nationalities.

The other established piece I'd like to single out was Bring him home. Once again, the reverberation and depth/fullness of the rounded syllable 'home' is jaw-dropping and stunning. Another song which really ought to be recorded by the CTs. It is as if it had been written with them in mind.

And so to the new songs, all eagerly awaited. I had not expected that we should be treated to as many as five of them in a single concert. What they display in combination if the vast range of musical styles to which Daryl, James and Matthew can turn their talents.

Four strong winds had been eagerly anticipated by some Canadian friends (fans of course...), and it is easy to understand why. It is apparently the Canadian
equivalent of Song for Ireland, and speaks in eloquent tones of the beauty of various areas of Canada, and with nostalgia oozing from every line. Gorgeous song, and one I am sure will grow on all of us with repeated exposure.

Lay down Sally was the shock of the evening. It is probably usually ascribed to Eric Clapton, but it was co-written with an American composer, hence its inclusion in the US composers' album. The one word I find easiest to describe its presentation is lolloping, though I fear that word may mean little outside my own country. Let's say that it is ultra-relaxed, taken at the pace perhaps which
could be expected to accompany a movie scene of horses clip-clopping down a street. Certainly nothing like the Clapton original interpretation. Daryl and Matthew deliver fairly conventional and ultra laid-back verses, then the shock of the night. Lee Marvin sings Wandering Star all over again (only in tune!). James' verse is delivered in what I can best describe as the voice very much like the one which ventriloquist Shari Lewis used for Lamb Chop's friend Charley Horse. James cannot be old enough to remember the puppet, but his delivery shocks and astounds at the same time, being so completely unlike anything I ever heard before at a CT concert. One has to wonder whether his voice could take too many performances of the song in that manner (hence the encouragement to consider a writing career earlier in the week - I wonder how long this spat will run?) Totally different, absolute fun, and audiences will clamour for more once they have heard it.

Hard times came next in the sequence. My knowledge of the song stems from the possession of Mavis Staples' version, which is low and dripping with pent up emotion verging on anger. Her version is also taken at a much slower pace than that employed by the CTs. I'm afraid that I was so engrossed in the difference in pace compared to what I am familiar with that much of the impact went right over my head. What I do recall is that the pace was significantly faster, the harmonies were exquisite as ever, and I now have a dawning realisation that I must focus more. Maybe my advancing years are taking their toll.

You ain't going nowhere is an extremely well-known song from the pen of master-composer Bob Dylan, of course. Perfect chorus for tenor harmonies Perfect vehicle, or so it would seem, also for would-be rock stars. I still have a mental image of Matthew standing at the stand microphone, holding it with his right hand, stooping slightly, and half turning to his left to synchronise with his colleagues,
looking for all the world as if he were belting out a rocker. This was the second song on which Daryl played guitar as well as singing - and he has the comfortable stance and air of a country and western rhythm guitarist in visual terms.

And finally from this section, the outstanding moment of the night for me (behind Caledonia). Randy Newman is a composer par excellence (in anyone's language!), and has long been a hero of mine. Any composer who can write songs with the essence of `Feels like home', or his masterpiece `I think it's gonna rain today' deserves sainthood in my book. (And I still think Feels like home is worth
consideration for a future CT album – forget Linda Ronstadt's version – listen to Bonnie Raitt sing her heart out - I can hear their voices singing it now if I project my imagination). Newman writes songs of wit, humour, bitter sarcasm, and endless pathos – one of my memorable concert attendances was seeing him in the open air at The Tower of London a few years back – he needs nothing but a piano and the magic of his compositions to keep an audience spellbound, and then some. James took time to set the scene for the gorgeous, perfect `Marie'. It has a relatively simple melody, and what sound like straightforward, even run of the mill lyrics, but therein lies its power. It is actually a hankering for love gone stale. I imagine that with the addition of the warmth of a few strings, the dichotomy will be complete – you sound like a love song, you are orchestrated like a love song, but you're really a mourning for the spark of love and a statement of ennui. Simply
perfect on every level. The way the CTs sing this song makes it worth the cost of the forthcoming album alone.

I want that CD NOW! It would seem as though we have a huge treat coming our way, hopefully very soon.

One person I have not mentioned – Donna. She sounded glorious (there are always gasps in audiences when this gorgeous and delicate young lady starts to sing with such depth and maturity), and her performance in Munich was of the usual immaculate standard. And she looked drop dead gorgeous. I never saw her legs before in the (literal) flesh. Whatever it is she is having, I want some. The head and shoulders picture which Barb posted for me does not lie, nor is it kind to the subject. She was really that stunning to look at. I make her sound as though she usually looks pretty ordinary – not so, but this time she positively glowed. And her personality matches the look, as those who have met her will attest to.

Thoroughly enjoyable night and a wonderful excuse to make a first visit to Munich. Glorious, glorious concert. More please!