Songs & Crazy Dreams from Paul Brady

“I hope he’s in good form tonight”, my friend John said to me as Paul Brady and his band took to the stage at the University Concert Hall in Limerick last Thursday night. John’s been a fan of Paul’s music since he was still in short pants and remembers buying many of his albums when they were first released. He’s seen him on numerous occasions while this is my first time seeing Paul in concert. He’s in Limerick tonight in support of his new album Hooba Dooba and he gets things going with a couple of songs from the album. I’ve been listening to it on his site and it sounds like one of his best efforts in a while. I’m not too taken by tonight’s opening numbers, particularly as the sound at the outset is less than impressive. It’s a bit too trebly, lacks warmth and all the different instruments are lost in the mix

Fortunately, the sound improves considerably after quarter of an hour and the whole gig takes off with a fabulous version of Nothing But the Same Old Story. As he does througout the night, Paul introduces the song well and he tells us how it came out of his own experiences as an Irish emigrant in London in the seventies. He claims that he’s not as angry as when he first recorded the track for Hard Station, but he still delivers an impassioned version of one of his best songs. He slows the pace down with Follow On from Back to the Centre before giving us the title tracks from two of his recent albums, Oh What a World and Spirits Colliding. He also introduces over half of the songs from the new album, including The Price of Fame, a song he co-wrote with Ronan Keating. This is followed by a nice version of another song written with Mr Keating, The Long Goodbye

It’s safe to say that Mr Brady is in great form and so is the excellent band behind him. The rhythm section is tight throughout, but two of the highlights of the evening for me come when bassist Jenny Maidman and drummer Liam Genockey are offstage. First, the lights go down and Steve Fletcher’s familiar piano intro to The Island is the only sound that can be heard in the Hall. I close my eyes and conjure up images to go with Paul’s lyrics in an amazing rendition of the song. It concludes on the equally familar acoustic guitar solo that is delivered perfectly by Bill Shanley, whose guitar work has been another of the evening’s high points. It doesn’t seem possible that this performance could be topped, but that’s exactly what happens when Paul is left alone on stage to deliver a wonderful version of The Lakes of Pontchartrain. I was quite amazed by Paul’s voice and guitar-playing on this traditional tune that he’s been singing for decades

After an hour and a half on stage, Paul goes off to a well-deserved standing ovation and returns with the sixth member of the band as they duet on one of her own songs. American singer-songwriter Sarah Siskind had done a great job in warming up the crowd as the opening act earlier in the night. Following their duet, the rest of the band return to give us a storming version of Busted Loose before sending us back to our homes with an extended take on The Homes of Donegal. Paul Brady and his band were in some form tonight and they sent the audience home in a good mood as well. Here’s a clip from 1977 of Paul singing The Lakes of Pontchartrain with Andy Irvine