The Choice Prize: A night of sparks

Music-lovers flocked to Vicar St. in their finest denims last night for the Choice Music Awards to see Galway man Adrian Crowley scoop the €10,000 gong

The 12-strong jury panel of media professionals squirreled away in debate, a restless crowd, which included Paul Brady and Kila man Brian Hogan, poured into the D2 venue just after 7pm.

The night kicked off with a performance by the ever epic CODES, followed by Dark Room Notes, a possessed Julie Feeney, Valerie Francis, Adrian Crowley, a truly on-form Duckworth Lewis Method and The Swell Season, who drafted in Leonard Cohen's guitarist to strum along to 'Paper Cut' from Hansard and Iglova's nominated album.

Legendary guitarists aside, it was left up to Belfast Boys And So I Watch You From Afar to really kick things off with a marvellous fury of truly glorious instrumental rock.

Missing from the Vicar St. stage was Laura Izibor who sent her thanks from Nashville and Bell X1 who I’m sure would have sent their thanks if they hadn’t been tens of thousands of feet in the air, en route to Los Angeles, where they play the infamous 2010 Oscars Oscar Wilde Party tonight.

Thankfully, speeches were kept to a minimum and before we knew it The Ticket’s Jim Carroll had announced Adrian Crowley’s A Season Of Spark as the winning record.

A clearly dumbfounded Crowley made his way to the stage with his hand smacked to his forehead before receiving his award. “I can’t believe it,” he repeated, “I should start thanking people but I really did not prepare anything!"

The Galway man continued; “This award is such an inspired idea and I hope it encourages everyone who is making music to be proud to be making music in our little country…”, before summoning his team to the stage for a round of hugs.

Formalities over and done with, the bulk of the crowd was Dame St. bound for the not so secret gig ASIWYFA had promised us, which I don't need to tell you was the performance of the night.

'Til next year, Vicar St.


Songwriters like Adrian Crowley belie the myth that the future of music lies with flashy bright new things. Time, longevity and commitment to his own vision have basically allowed him to develop into the best songwriter in the country by stealth, without ever resorting to gimmickry, fashion or desperate changes of direction. In answer to the question of how his records have changed – each record is the same, but it’s even more the same. He’s circling around the platonic Adrian Crowley record and he’s getting closer to it.

So a certain resolute toughness underlies this batch of beautiful Al Stewart/Leonard Cohenesque pastoral reflections. His production pallet’s expanded out from effected guitars to strings, harmoniums, glockenspiels, woodwind, organs, and strange percussive effects. And with those ingredients he depicts real geography and landscapes – gardens, rooms, wishing seats and colonnades he’s seen and spent time near, in which strange, oblique little stories about blind men and bee keepers can occur, all pinned down by his strong gentle baritone.

Reviewing records is a very imprecise activity. Let’s face it, good musicians score on their own terms and it never quite matches up to a marking system from the department of musical education. I’d have given the first Adrian Crowley record 3 out of 5, but each subsequent album has improved by at least one star. This means that the current Adrian Crowley record should get about 8 out of 5. Unfortunately I’m not allowed do that (sigh). So 5 it is.


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