Even the terrible plastic folding seats in the Old Fruitmarket couldn’t keep the crowd from chair-dancing up a storm to tonight’s music.
Opening was 2 Duos, a fabulous combination of — wait for it — two duos, Gudrun Walther and Jürgen Treyz working in glorious musical collaboration with Claire Mann and Aaron Jones. The combination of these two duos created an exuberant powerhouse of a group that’s as fun to watch as to listen. The patter’s fun, Jones’ and Walther’s voices work well in the songs, and the instrumentals get your blood moving. Most of the audience I saw were making certain those awful chairs sagged just a bit more by bouncing to those infections beats. How cruel is it that opening acts of that caliber get only a half hour or so to shine. Go out and buy their new CD, “Until the Cows Come Home” and enjoy!
There was a ritualistic air about the next set, what with two candelabras, each with seven lit candles, on either side of five empty chairs. The lights start to dim, and a technician comes out on stage to remove the center chair. On walks the band, all dressed in black and a bit of white. Isn’t that the set up for magic?
Frankie Gavin is a wizard with a fiddle. With Damien Mullane on accordion, Mike Galvin on bouzouki and guitars, and Eric Cunningham on percussion, flutes and whistles, The New DeDanann produced an dynamic opening set, slowing just a bit for the audience to catch its breath and to showcase the accordion and fiddle. These guys play at breakneck speed – some of the fastest tunes I’ve heard.
Just as the audience was ready to tear the place down, the vocalist, Michelle Lally, came on stage to slow things down with a song.
Unfortunately, this became the framework for the rest of the concert: fabulous instrumentals that got the crowd going, then a slow-paced, down-tempo song to settle us all down to near-napping. Well, me anyway; some of the crowd obviously enjoyed her singing very much. Lally’s voice is very nice, but it’s too smooth and all but one of the songs were very slow and polished and, frankly, dull. They didn’t seem to be coming from the same group that produced those amazing instrumental sets.
The sound was a bit off, a fact driven home during the break (in the men’s lavvy) when another patron said, “That’s f****** Frankie Gavin up there, and it could be any other fiddler.” Meaning the sound was so muddy, Gavin’s brilliance got lost in the mix. We were seated in the middle of the hall, where the sound ought to have been sweetest, and there were many times when the bodhran smothered the fiddle, or the accordion ran over the fiddle’s music. The sound did no favors at all to Lally’s best song, where the lyrics were difficult to understand. (Note to soundmen: This is folk music, not reggae or rock’n’roll. Turn the bass down and let the voice and fiddle come through, K?)
Still, the crowd loved it all, demanding an encore (with a standing ovation, unusual here) and pouting when a second one wasn’t to be had. Gavin appeared to be having fun, even dismissing the band for a few minutes while he told Irish jokes, then briefly playing solo. And man, that guy can play.