ANDY IRVINE - The Music Room, Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool

It had been a frustrating afternoon for Andy Irvine, who had been hoping to watch Everton in a critical game against Brentford. When kick-off was put back for television, the match then clashed with his soundcheck. But he is very happy to be back on the road after lockdown and facing live audiences once more.

He began with O’Donoghue’s, describing his introduction to Irish folk music in a pub in Dublin. He continued with The Banks of the Bann and then a couple of his own songs, Prince Among Men, a tribute to miners, followed by Houdini, a clever song that might have come from the music halls.

Songs were elegantly accompanied on bouzouki or one of his three mandolas, often with his distinctive harmonica added too. Two more lyrical Irish folk songs were followed by the violent story of Johnson. An unaccompanied song, the humorous My Son In Amerikay, came next, before he finished the first half with the dramatic Plains Of Kildare.

The second half began with another personal song, As Good As It Gets, a light-hearted look back at his travels in eastern Europe. There were more Irish folk songs, then two songs with a chance for the audience to join in the choruses, Here’s A Health To Every Miner Lad and the touching Titanic.

Andy’s songs covered his whole career, from his early days with Sweeney’s Men, through Planxty and Patrick Street, to his current band Usher’s Island. He is as busy as ever, and revealed that during lockdown he had recorded a long over- due album of songs of his great hero, Woody Guthrie, which should be released shortly. And he announced that he would be celebrating his 80th birthday with a concert in Dublin, but assured us he would return to Liverpool in two years’ time!

He finished with one of his showpieces, a version of English folk song, The Blacksmith, with a contrasting eastern European coda. An encore was demanded and Andy sang another humorous song, the unaccompanied King of Ballyhooley, sending everyone home in a happy mood.

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