Live : Daoirí Farrell / Elidyr Glyn15.05.18 : Galeri, Caernarfon
I must have heard a thousand hours of Irish folk live - in pub sessions, community halls and Irish centres - where, to steal a phrase from Roy Harper, the music reaches strange, and glorious and very fast, full heights. It is often a privilege to be there, sat listening in unspoken communion. I have almost always avoided it in formal settings, concert venues, lest the spell be broken and the magic lost.
Caernarfon's Galeri has a large, unraised stage with steep raked seats that mean you could sit behind the Gruffalo and still have a view. The sound is perfect - clear but not flat. A local singer-songwriter, Elidyr Glyn, opened the evening. Relaxed and unassuming on stage, Glyn has a rich, sonorous voice that sounds as if it is rolling down a valley or across a still sea. His songs (all sung in Welsh) are often plaintive or melancholy in tone - he has real emotive depth in his delivery that stirs feeling without semantic understanding.
Daoirí Farrell played for ninety minutes. Watching, caught in the enthralling flow of the music, it felt like twenty. He was focused at first, eyes half shut for the first few songs, with little introduction between pieces, then more confident, humorous and expansive as the set wore on. His way with a song, the sympathy of arrangement and precision, sparked immediate thoughts of Nic Jones - as if to underline that impression, he played and sang the Paul Metsers' song Farewell to the Gold, that Jones fixed in the firmament with a version on Penguin Eggs, beautifully, drawing out its inherent sorrow and resignation.
Playing one of two bouzoukis - the first traditionally shaped, the second an instrument with a guitar body (and ampler sound), given to Farrell by Andy Irvine - he worked through a set that featured songs from both of his albums, and others he had learned on the way. The highlights included his arrangement of a 1640s song, The Shady Woods of Truagh, the audience requested Creggan White Hare and the (obligatory) encore's John O'Dreams - written by Bill Caddick, notably covered by Christy Moore and enchantingly rendered here.
Bridging the gap between where they are from and a conventional performance space, Farrell has the rare charisma and talent to bring the folk songs he has found to a stage, and do them, and their stories, full justice. It was an honour to listen.
DAOIRÍ FARRELL I Creggan White Hare
ELIDYR GLYN I Curiad Y Dydd