The singer has lashed out at the critic who slated his Gaiety gig.
Chris de Burgh has launched an astonishing riposte to an Irish Times review of his Gaiety Theatre show. The review appeared in the Times last Thursday, and a copy of an email sent by the singer, in response, to the reviewer Peter Crawley, has been seen by Hot Press.
The review contained a generally negative reaction to the gig – one of three sell-out nights, which attracted an audience of over 3,000 to the theatre – and depicted de Burgh in a decidedly unflattering light.
The spat touches on an age-old debate concerning the role of the reviewer. Is there – as artists, managers and promoters often insist – a need, in the context of a review, to reflect what happened at a gig, and to report on what the audience reaction is? Or is a purely subjective response what it’s all about?
“A small man appears,” Crawley wrote, “in suit trousers and a white shirt, giving a little wave, like a businessman happy to have finished a long day of conference calls.
“This man is Chris de Burgh. You may have heard of him. The name alone summons a rush of associations, some of which carry a shudder, few of which fail to draw a smile.
“There is that warbly tenor,” the review continues, “the calling card of the mawkish balladeer (“I have never seen that dress you’re wearing . . . ”) which switches at the faintest invitation into a throaty belt: “DON’T PAY THE FERRYMAN!” There is that haircut, long at the back and wispy up front, entirely unruffled by 34 years in the music biz.
“And of course there is that cringe factor, unalleviated by the man’s apparent earnestness: his slightly tarnished squeaky clean persona, his claims to heal people with his hands, his indelible association with a time of shoulder pads and enormous hair. In short, it’s easy to snigger at de Burgh.”
Clearly stung by the personal nature of much of the comment in the review, de Burgh wrote to Crawley in terms that more than match – and indeed in places far exceed – the reviewer in terms of vituperation. The email includes a bilious sideswipe at Joe Breen, the former rock critic with the Irish Times, who now reviews country and roots music for the paper, and also served for a time as wine correspondent.
(Joe Breen's response, when Hot Press contacted him, was short and sweet: "I'm lucky to be blessed with a sense of humour.")
De Burgh's email to Crawley continues: “Your churlish review is an insult to all those who enjoyed their night out, and in these days of collapsing newspaper sales and an entire new generation on the way who will get their information online, you may be looking for another job sooner rather than later. Your pals in the pub must have loved your review, but it seems that you are universally loathed in the Theatre world; a leading Impresario has described you as ‘puffed up with his own self-importance’, and a much loved and successful actress refers to you as ‘that loathsome little turd’. Great accolades, to be sure.”
Accusing the reviewer of having gone to the show with his mind made up, he goes on: “… to totally ignore what actually happened and launch a personal attack is so transparent that any reader can see that it was pointless even writing it, as you were the only person who attended the show that night who didn't ACTUALLY WANT TO BE THERE!!”
“It was a great gig,” Noel McHale of MCD told Hot Press. “The reaction was amazing – he was getting standing ovations from half way through the show. The band were shit hot, the musicianship was amazing and the production was superb – they did things with the lighting and with special effects that I’d never seen before. Technically, it was brilliant. But none of that was reflected in the review – which doesn’t seem fair or balanced.”
Peter Crawley’ Reflections On The Letter
Peter Crawley told Hot Press that he thinks the problem here is that de Burgh’s public and private personas have become mixed up.
“I sort of felt I could write about Chris de Burgh, this persona, and for it not really to emotionally trouble him. Genuinely, I think – that’s maybe my naivete – that somebody with a career of over 30 years standing will take it in his stride,” said Crawley.
But the Irish Times critic adds that there’s another aspect of de Burgh which may be at the root of this disagreement: “I think there’s a disconnect between how he sees himself and his understanding of what a perception of him might be. You see that in his performance, where suddenly he portrays himself as a rock and roller without fully understanding what rock and roll might be. And bridling against the whole crooner tag, which is a better description of what his music is and what his music was and what it means at a particular time.”
“To be inflexible after so many years makes you a nostalgia act and you have to accept that as part of the package. I guess, not being able to see that, makes him, in my mind, a little bit distanced from the scene – not having a very good outside objective perspective of himself. Or maybe not able to disentangle the idea of Chris de Burgh, the person who is a good father or a nice guy or a good guy to have a drink with, and Chris de Burgh that figure: the guy on the stage, the guy on the album cover, the guy in the video, the singer of those verses. I guess a lot of us never have to handle the idea of a public persona and a private life and I guess maybe you take things personally that aren’t meant personally. And I guess maybe, on my side, I should be better aware that things can be taken personally that aren’t meant that way,” said Crawley.
So, is this just another case of the age old debate about how objective/subjective reviewers can/should be?
“There’s no such thing as complete objectivity. You can’t really have a structuralist reading of a concert! So everything is subjective but must be argued. You have to back up a position. While prejudice isn’t going to help you, you have to take to evidence of the performance and any evidence that’s kind of attached to a persona that’s built up,” said Crawley.
“Obviously, I was surprised that it evidently was so wounding and clearly stuck in his craw. And, you know, you do tend to lose sight of the fact that when you’re talking about a public persona, there’s somebody with a mum and there’s somebody who gets hurt and somebody who is going to take it poorly. But the alternative is criticism which is nothing but unmitigated praise and I don’t think that’s especially helpful either,” he said.
Asked about his reaction on receiving de Burgh’s email, the critic said (with maybe just a hint of irony at times): “If you read it, it’s funny. It’s a little bit – I mean, you do cringe. In fairness, he has written this to be amusing and you’ve got to hand it to him – he’s obviously spent a long time and a lot of effort finding out who I am. That’s almost touching really.”
Crawley mentioned that, though the letter “seems to have circulated rather widely,” he had understood it to be a personal correspondance.
“It was, at least, addressed to me and he did ask to meet. So I wrote back and offered a few times that I’m available to meet him. I haven’t heard back yet but I think the offer stands,” he said.
For the full text of Chris de Burgh’s letter, click here.
Bell X1 have just released their new single 'Fire King', which has already reached over one million plays on Spotify...Read More
Kodaline make a most welcome return today with their stunning new single ‘Brother’, which is a song that easily sits among their very best.Read More
In 2018, the Web Summit re-engages with its alma mater in Dublin – but this time to host the MoneyConf event, which hopes to attract 5,000 people the RDS.Read More
Radiohead have shared a new video for their previously unreleased studio recording of 'Man of War.'Read More
Bono and Adam talked to Liam Mackey before their Croke Park gig in 1985.Read More
The former One Direction star says that he was subjected to thorough security checks while travelling through American airports on tour with the band, including being detained for three hours.Read More
The exhibition is being held in the Copperhouse Gallery in St Kevin's Cottages on Synge Street, from 6-8pm.Read More
Having just welcomed twins into the world with his wife Amal, the Ocean's Eleven has sold his start-up drinks company to Diageo, the multinational beverages company who also own Guinness.Read More
The Midsummer Sessions come to Portstewart between July 6-9, during the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.Read More
Brian Wilson, who plays two Irish dates next month, will release an 18-song anthology of his solo work in September.Read More
The official music video for the late musician's song 'The Promise' has just been released.Read More
The Dublin band's music video for their debut single ‘All Or Nothing’ stars Keith Duffy's son, Jay Duffy.Read More
The National College of Art and Design has announced the appointment of Sarah Glennie as its new Director. She will take up her new position in January 2018.Read More
Almost every major cast member makes an appearance in this telling new trailer for Season 7.Read More
The very first Wheelhouse Showcase will take place tomorrow (Thursday June 22).Read More
Ireland’s abortion failings will be highlighted at high-level EU meetings this week, with the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment being invited to address several discussions.Read More
On their 1984 European tour, U2 talked to Bill Graham about The Unforgettable Fire's realization in Slane Castle - what they called the most ambitious journey yet.Read More
The ex-One Directioner did an acoustic take on the classic track during an appearance on the kid's writing competition show 500 Words on BBC Radio 2.Read More
The Cork band will perform in Dublin on December 22.Read More
The new lighthearted comedy will also star The Fall actress Tara Lynne O'Neill and Game of Thrones actor Ian McElhinney.Read More
The new film aims to reunite the cast of the 2008 film ten years later.Read More
The American rock band will land in Dublin this October.Read More
Stormzy, Craig David, James Blunt, Brian May, Leona Lewis, Emili Sande, Paloma Faith and Bastille are just some of the names who appear on the track.Read More
Entitled “Irish Eyes”, the piece is inspired by the eyes of a number of Ireland’s most prolific writers and poets.Read More
Netflix, the world’s leading internet TV network, is bringing Tony Danza back to series television in The Good Cop, which will air later this year.Read More
The late singer's 12-year-old daughter Toni has touchingly described her father as her "idol" and spoke about their "special connection" in an open letter she penned for Father's Day.Read More
The County Wicklow-based actor made the shock announcement last night to pull the curtain down on his distinguished career, saying it was a "private decision".Read More
The New York rap legend, who achieved fame as one part of the Mobb Deep duo, died due to complications caused by a sickle cell anemia crisis.Read More
Francie Conway enlisted the help of Queen producer David Richards to record ‘Drop Dead Gorgeous’ – but Richards sadly passed away in 2013. Only now has the Irish songwriter been able to finish recording what is a very special song for him.Read More
Body & Soul comes to Ballinlough Castle this weekend (June 23 – 25), bringing with it the likes of Sleaford Mods, Metronomy, Lambchop and dozens of other acts. Here's the full list of stage times for the weekend.Read More
The Cavan lads will bring their Spitting Image Tour to Dublin in time for Christmas.Read More
U2's War tour came home with a massive date headlining the Phoenix Park festival. Bono chatted to Liam Mackey beforehand...Read More
The music of the late minimalist artist Conor Walsh has been used as the soundtrack for Mayo.ie’s latest tourism video.Read More
Two Pints will be performing in Salthill Bar this July.Read More
Seth McFarlane, the show's creator, called West "joy to work with."Read More
Buoyed by the launch of the #MoreWomen campaign, which has raised €25,000 for women looking to enter political life in just five days, the Women For Election organisation are urging Leo Varadkar to reflect gender balance in his Junior Minister appointments.Read More
Fronted by the legendary Jock McDonald, The Bollock Brothers will play at the Grand Social in Dublin this Saturday, June 24.Read More
The English musician will release his second album, Wake Up Now, on September 8.Read More
One of the country’s most successful comedy festivals will return to Galway from October 24-30.Read More
Jackie Hayden and Peter Murphy, who have both been invaluable to Hot Press over the past 40 years, have been invited to make key contributions at the second Kilmore Quay Literary Festival, Write By The Sea 2017.Read More
The American pop rock band will play in Vicar St and Mandela Hall this September.Read More
The 23-year-old singer is to be made an honourary citizen of Manchester in July, it has been confirmed.Read More
The Star Wars actress had heroin, cocaine, methadone and ecstasy in her system at the time of her tragic death, according to the autopsy report.Read More
Netflix has announced that the highly anticipated 'Star Trek: Discovery' will be available to Irish viewers to stream from 25 September.Read More
The good news just keeps on flowing for Irish film and TV directors, with the word that Listowel’s Gerard Barrett has done a deal with FX and Fox for a new TV drama.Read More
Bono talked to Bill Graham as WAR hit number one in the UK...Read More
American death metal band Morbid Angel are pleased to announce a Belfast headline show at The Limelight 2 on this November.Read More
The experimental band plan to "cut out the middle man" with new venture aimed at delivering their music directly to the fans.Read More
Just days after announcing a solo show at The Grand Social on July 1, it has been confirmed that Sean O’Hagan will play a second gig at the Cork County Cricket Club the following evening.Read More
The Irish songwriter is set to play at the Limelight 2 on Tuesday June 20.Read More
The political and cultural landscape has changed almost beyond recognition since the Hog first exited his pen – and took up his pen. But there is no getting away from some eternal truths.Read More
American Dream will be release on September 1.Read More
The Noughties pop-rock band will revive their set on two January dates next year.Read More
The gave album announcement follows the news that Jay-Z's wife Beyonce gave birth to twins yesterday.Read More
The former President of Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, Marion Coy says that the political centre in Ireland must now examine how it presents itself in the current "politics of fear".Read More
The 41-year-old TV star, who is best known as one half of the popular duo Ant and Dec, bravely opened up yesterday about his battles with depression, anxiety and addiction.Read More
Beyoncé's father Mathew Knowles has taken to Instagram to confirm media reports that she has given birth.Read More
As part of the long-standing collaboration between Jameson and Hot Press, Bow St. Sessions continue to give a flavour of all the best that Irish music has to offer. The latest instalment saw the Sessions return to their home in Jameson Distillery Bow St. and was once again an unqualified success.Read More
Adam pocketed a big fat Hot Press contributors’ cheque for documenting their February/March ’82 run round the USRead More
Elvis Costello and Altered Images had to settle for silver & bronze as the chaps won the overall Hot Press Readers’ Poll Best Act.Read More
Time to take those 'Cemetery Slut' t-shirts out of the wardrobe, as Dani & Co. play Belfast & Dublin.Read More
The music mogul says he's in the process of "making calls" about doing the charity single to raise much needed funds for the victims of the horrific fire.Read More
Coldplay have just released a new lyric video for the song 'All I Can Think About Is You', which is taken from their eagerly awaited new five-track Kaleidoscope EP.Read More
The Mullingar band have just released their latest single, 'Show Me The Science'.Read More
The U2 guitarist said he "didn't hesitate for a split-second" in accepting the award named after Les Paul who he described as "without doubt a man after my own heart."Read More
After smashing her first ever festival set, the lovely Soulé graced us with her presence in the Hot Press Speakeasy, for an interview with Stuart Clarke.Read More
Ireland's most exciting up and coming hip - hop act, Rusangano Family blew the roof off of the Bulmers Live Stage at Forbidden Fruit, and are bringing their high energy act to international stages in the near future.Read More
Mark November 24 in your diary.Read More
After supervising their efforts in the UK, Hot Press' Bill Graham caught up with the band on the midwest leg of their first American tour...Read More
The pop star plays a confusing amount of roles in her latest video for new single “Bad Liar”, which samples a bit from the classic track “Psycho Killer”.Read More
Following his IFTA win for Best Supporting Actor in the film The Siege of Jadotvville, O’Mara will be starring in the upcoming season of the hit Amazon Drama.Read More
Following their performance to 40,000 people at Malahide Castle, the Canadian alt/rock band played a short intimate gig in the Dublin bar.Read More
Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment have today issued a statement calling on new Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to hold a referendum on repealing the 8th next year.Read More
"The impossible deal is now done," said UFC president Dana White when announcing the long-mooted fight between the retired professional boxing champ and the Irish Mixed martial arts superstar.Read More
Simon Coveney is the new Minister for Foreign Affairs, while Simon Harris remains in Health.Read More
It was a dramatic day in Dáil Éireann, with Leo Varadkar taking up the highest political office in the land. And next, he is announcing his cabinet!Read More
The five-piece Irish band Sack is confirmed to make an appearance in Sean O’Hagan’s solo show in July.Read More
Having teased us all spring, Queens of the Stone Age have today announced that their new album will be called Villains.Read More
The man who introduced U2 to Paul McGuinness, Bill Graham joined U2 on their first run round the UK.Read More
Jafaris is a firm favorite here at Hot Press having recently graced the cover of our issue dedicated to the best up and coming acts in Ireland, so it was a pleasure to have him sit down for a chinwag with Olaf Tyransen in the Hot Press Speakeasy.Read More
Gordi popped into the Hot Press Speakeasy on the Monday of Forbidden Fruit, both for an interview and to seek shelter from the elements.Read More
Comedian Andrew Stanley dropped in to the Hot Press Speakeasy at Forbidden Fruit 2017 for a chat with Roisin Dwyer.Read More
The Dublin electronic alternative rockers are all set to launch their debut EP at the Portabello venue on June 30.Read More