Pierce Turner & Friends
at the White's Barn,
Wexford, Ireland
(30 December 2001)

Some weeks ago, Pierce Turner, a Wexford-born singer-songwriter who also lives and performs in New York, was a victim of thieves. More than 10,000 worth of guitars, keyboards, videos and other irreplaceable items was stolen from his home in Wexford. But as Pierce said during the concert, organised by some of his friends, "for every louser out there who robs there are at least ten good people full of sympathy and goodwill."

This proved to rather a unique concert. Five hundred tickets were sold at 20 each purely through word of mouth. Not a single mention was made in the local media and no posters were displayed.

The show was opened by Leo O'Kelly, who is perhaps best known as one half of the very successful group Tir na nOg, who played to packed venues from the 1970s onwards. O'Kelly, despite some technical difficulties, did a fine job in warming up the audience with some old tracks and a new piece titled "Venezuela" from his new CD.

Next on stage was Declan Sinnott. Sinnott is perhaps best known as musical director and record producer with such stars as Mary Black, Frances Black, Sinead Lohan and many others. He is a master on guitar and is quite good in the vocal department as well, as he proved with a few well-chosen songs.

Then came surprise No. 1 of the evening. Frances Black appeared on stage and with Declan they enthralled the audience with a few of her better-known hits such as Christy Hennessy's "All the Lies that you Told Me."

Pierce Turner himself was also on hand and, accompanied by Vicky Clancy on saxophone and clarinet with Leo O'Kelly on guitar, he showed his prowess as a live performer. He has a great stage presence and is a natural storyteller as he proved with his tales of going to New York. As he said, it was when he arrived there with Larry Kirwan (now fronting Black 47) he realised he could make a living out of being Irish. All he had to do was speak or sing the songs of his homeland. From that he progressed to his own compositions and has carved quite a niche for himself on both sides of the Atlantic, with his songs being recorded by Christy Moore, among others.

Later, Pierce was joined on stage by his cousin, Billy Roche, a well-known writer and playwright whose latest offering is on stage at the Peacock Theatre in The Abbey in Dublin. Billy and Pierce performed the lovely ballad "Coast of Malabar," which featured in Billy's novel Tumbling Down.

Top of the bill and "main man" was Christy Moore making one of his rare public performances since his health scares of recent years. His arrival was greeted with shouts, stamping feet and a standing ovation. Accompanied by Sinnott he launched into a spirited rendition of "Nancy Spain" and had the audience in the palm of his hand for the next hour. His set included "Go, Move, Shift," Ewan McColl's song about travellers, "McIllhatton," "Black is the Colour" and a wide range of his hits. Introducing his rendition of Turner's composition "Musha God Help Her" (a great song about a girl trapped in a bad marriage), Christy thanked "the bollix that robbed Pierce" because it gave him a chance to perform with the night's great group of musicians.

He was particularly delighted that, having played venues around the world accompanied by Sinnott, he could now be on stage with him in his hometown. (Sinnott was a schoolmate of mine and speaking to him later her recalled how instead of school texts he had "The Burl Ives Songbook" under his desk.)

As well as the great songs, sung with such passion and gusto that he broke his guitar string at least twice, Moore had a fabulous banter with the audience. He had some class remarks as put downs for the inevitable shouts and roars for favourites. "I'll play a medley of all of them at twenty past two" or for the person who shouted for "Nancy Spain" -- "We know who came in late then."

As usual, he finished his set with "Lisdoonvarna," adding verses and references to the local artists who played on this benefit night. But he could not escape with that and was back on stage following much foot-stamping for a double encore.

So on a very frosty December night a silver lining was found in the black cloud of a callous thief. A group of performers who so obviously love to play together had a venue, Turner got at least some recompense for his loss and a very happy Wexford audience had a great post-Christmas treat.

[ by Nicky Rossiter ]
Rambles: 19 January 2002