Me Auld Flowers

Ahead of their return to Vicar St. this Thursday, Hot Press' resident caimiléir uafásach Pat Carty, pictured here standing in a hole beside Liam and Fiachna, looks back on Hothouse Flowers' last two Dublin shows

Vicar Street, 12/3/17

The Flowers get a raw deal. Yes, there has on occasion been an inescapable aura of lentils/bare feet off them, but on the other hand (foot?), they’ve made some fine records - I’d argue over pints that Songs From The Rain is one of the great lost Irish albums.

They’ve got soul, and no amount of magic bracelets or gypsy fairs are going to change that. Live, they’re always great, and tonight sees a celebration of their recent commercial kick in the arse from Jeremy Clarkson.

The seriously lunged Lisa Lambe supports, looking like a young Stevie Nicks dressed as a bishop, backed with tasteful restraint by a bunch of Flowers. 'Hazelwood' is a lovely song. She’s got something.

The one-two opening combo of 'See-line Woman' and 'Motherless Child', Nina Simone by way of Van Morrison, only adds weight to my Flowers-Got-Soul hypothesis. 'Love Don’t Work This Way' then segues into a mighty 'Si Do Mhamo í'. On 'This Is It (Your Soul)', Liam “Suibne Geilt” Ó Maonlaí doesn’t even bother with a microphone, controlling the room with a wave of his hand, and that voice, which remains a thing of wonder.

He dances, he howls, he plays the piano, he gives it some authentically Malian acoustic guitar on Afel Boucoum’s “Ali Farka”. Later, he delivered a baby and fixed my car, the marvellously talented bastard.One could say he gave it socks throughout, if only he had brought a pair to give.

Fiachna Ó Braonáin, a proper guitar player in the Steve Cropper tradition of listening as much as playing, also manages to burn the face off the first three rows armed only with a tin whistle, and I suspect Peter O’Toole could get a tune out of a ball of twine if you flung it at him. They don’t even bother with 'I Can See Clearly Now', although we do get the lovely 'Three Sisters' off the new album, and they close with a West Africa Highlife reworking of 'Don’t Go'.

Yes, it includes a drum solo, which there was no call for, but sure let them off. Leopardstown in July would be a good bet.

Joyous. Go and see them.

Bulmers Live At Leopardstown, 13/7/17

The Bulmers Live at Leopardstown concert series seems to be a good wheeze. Get the punters to enjoy the craic at the gee-gees, and it is good craic, then stick a band on stage out in the open, everyone will be suitably refreshed, and if the rain holds off, sure you can’t go wrong. When it came to the ponies, Hot Press used the tried and tested method of picking a horse with some sort of “rock” sounding name. Accordingly, a few quid was placed “each way” on Tara Dylan in the 7:30. 50-1? Lovely, more money for me when she romps home in triumph. When the Hothouse Flowers take to the boards nearly two hours later, I think I spot my glue bag just rounding the first corner.

You can tell a lot about a band from the way they walk on stage. If they shamble on, eyes fixed to the floor, you should probably head back to the bar. No such problems with the Flowers, who are all waves and smiles. Liam "Treebeard" "Mac Cumhaill" Ó Maonlaí carries a cup and a coffee pot, weary perhaps from travel and toil. He happily reveals to me later that it’s actually full of red wine, the card. Down to business with ‘This Is It (Your Soul)’, the opening track from 93’s lovely, warm and underrated Songs From The Rain, prompting grins and sways throughout a crowd who are very much in the mood. Debut single ‘Love Don’t Work This Way’, released back when God was in short trousers, follows. The “woos” from Liam give all the women of a certain age, actually, scratch that, all the women full stop, a fit of the vapours, and the band sound fantastic given the fact that we’re standing in a car park. Nina Simone’s ‘Sea Lion Woman’, gets Ó Maonlaí out from behind the keyboard to essay his patented “Jesus on E” dance steps and lead the crowd in some call and response action, no microphone required. He takes off his jacket and several young ones faint. I suspect that if, for some reason, you found yourself dissecting the man, you would find he has “star” stamped all the way through like a holiday stick of rock.

‘You Can Love Me Now’ and ‘Your Love Goes On’, with extra lyrics from one Robert Marley, spark a shape-throwing outbreak in the crowd. ‘Sweet Marie’ is just beautiful, rolling waves of sound coming off the stage, segueing into an extended Irish number. I would only embarrass myself, and the Christian Brothers who tried to beat the language into me, by trying to name it, but it does move something inside you. Nice guy Fiachna Ó Braonáin, whose guitar playing is as smooth as the voice that oozes out of a speaker tuned to his late night radio show, dances with Ó Maonlaí as he plays, it’s as if Mick and Keith had been packed off to the gaeltacht as teenagers. Peter "Bouzouki Joe" O’Toole makes it look ridiculously easy through out, and the rhythm section of Dave Clarke and Martin Brunsden are almost telepathically groovy together.

They finish with ‘Give It Up’ and ‘Don’t Go’, three quarters of the crowd act like they’re auditioning for a part in Riverdance, and there’s also room for Ó Braonáin to take a lap on the tin whistle. If the people of Hamelin have any more problems, they should probably give this man a call. When Ó Maonlaí joins him on the bodhrán, we nearly go back in time.

There’s not much we can thank Jeremy Clarkson for, unless casual xenophobia or gawping at cars even Bono can’t afford is your thing, but if his patronage of the Flowers is responsible for their current level of activity, then we really do owe the man something. Long may they run.

 

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