Eric Bogle,
Live at the Stoneyfell Winery
(Greentrax, 2009)

Welcome to the finest live presentation of this year. Eric Bogle is a performer ideally suited both to the live show and to the DVD market. His show is not all bells and whistles, needing 40 camera angles and state-of-the-art surround sound with possibly "vibrovision" to enjoy it. He stands, he sings, he plays, he chats and he has a brilliant team of musicians backing him.

Add to this the stature as one of the finest songwriters of modern times -- people all too often forget this attribute, thinking his songs are traditional -- and that his repertoire spans comic through historical and personal to tragic, and you have the ingredients for a great show. The next trick is that he knows how to mix those components to produce a "cake" worth returning to again and again.

On the DVD he performs 21 songs and gives a running commentary on the backstory for each. He runs through his back catalogue and gives us new arrangements on some of his classics like "Leaving Nancy," a song few people realize is about a mother rather than a lover; "Shelter," a hymn to Australia; "The Band Played Waltzing Matilda," not a traditional song from the Great War after all; and "No Man's Land," probably one of the most recorded and sung folk songs of the 20th century.

He also reminds us of a lifetime in music and of being capable of more than the genre most associated with him on a funny track, "Them Old Song-Writing Blues." His song-writing skills are most evident in the simple songs like "The Dalai Lama's Candle," where his thoughts flood out and connect diverse subjects into a coherent whole that is a lovely song with great sentiment, never mawkish, but often unheard.

Few can listen to the beautiful "Rosie" without have a tear trickle and fall, or hear "If Wishes Were Fishes" without humming or singing along to the infectious chorus.

The backing is superb, almost without being noticed -- a true sign of greatness. We hear the gushing reviews and plaudits for Christy Moore, Bob Dylan, etc., but very few for Bogle who just gets out there, does the business and uses words and music to make us think more than any other performer working, but in a much more subtle fashion.

Pick up this DVD and enjoy this night with Eric.

review by
Nicky Rossiter

10 October 2009

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