- 22 May 18
Lisa Hannigan, Paul Noonan of Bell X1, Conor O'Brien of Villagers and Alicia Byrne Keane all performed.
As I’m sure everybody knows by now, this Friday will see Ireland vote on whether to remove the eighth amendment or not. Tension has been building for months. The climax is near. Nerves are beginning to creep in for canvassers on both sides.
This gig wasn’t a plea for a yes vote. The majority in the crowd were already wearing their badges and jumpers with pride to show their support for the cause. This gig, that Lisa Hannigan organised with very little notice (a mere 36 hours), was a thank you for everyones hard work so far. It was a night to be enjoyed amidst the chaos while also raising money for the Together for Yes campaign.
It was Paul Noonan of Bell X1 who was tasked with opening the show. Ditching the band for just his acoustic guitar, he opened with ‘The Upswing’. Despite his claims that “I don’t do this very often”, he is very comfortable on stage and his interactions with the crowd seem so natural.
Just like his lyrics, he manages to strike a balance between humour and gravity. In a week of such severity, laughter was necessary and Noonan provided it during ‘Next to You’. “I’m not over you, can I get back under?” are the words he sang. Remind you of any song? He threw in a few bars of Dua Lipa’s anthem ‘New Rules’, much to the delight and surprise of the crowd.
“This is about love and a sense of togetherness in this crazy week. In 1983 I was 8 years old when the 8th was voted on,” he told the crowd. “Now I have an 8 year old son and he’s seeing all these posters and I find it very difficult to talk to him about it. It’s something that gets in their little heads and they see these images that are misleading and disturbing.”
After a couple more songs (and hilarious anecdotes), Paul Noonan was followed by Alicia Byrne Keane, a spoken-word act. Walking on stage, she seemed terrified. She nervously introduced herself and it seemed as though she wasn’t quite sure what to do. As soon as she began her first poem “A Definite Type”, she had the room convinced.
She spurned laughter from the crowd on a night where emotions were high. Despite the first impressions she gave, her performance confirmed Alicia Byrne Keane as a welcomed addition to the line-up.
A brief interval ensued before Conor O’Brien of Villagers took to the stage. He opened with a breathtaking cover of Roy Orbison’s ‘Crying’. It allowed him to demonstrate his incredible falsetto ability and set a very high bar for the remainder of his set.
“This next song is a song that meant quite a lot to me during the marriage equality referendum and I think it’s taken a new significance when I was singing it today,” he said as he introduced ‘Hot Scary Summer’. “I had all the feels and that the words mean something different.”
The performance was the highlight of his set. The girl beside me had tears meandering down her cheeks. Even Lisa Hannigan acknowledged the performance when it was her turn to step on stage.
“I feel like we’re all living in this vicious soup. It’s physically painful,” she said. “It’s actually physically painful when I think about walking around over the last while and that (‘Hot Scary Summer) genuinely, I feel healed a part of me”.
Hannigan has publicly been supporting the Together For Yes campaign. She’s been canvassing, calling door-to-door to people. She even got chased out of garden for her troubles at one point. It’s obvious how much this means to her.
She’s soft-spoken, every word is like a whisper in a night sky. Her vocals simply captivated the audience. The room watched in silence. No singing or clapping along. Simply in awe.
Having spent years as a backing vocalist, I’m sure plenty of people are still surprised by her musical and song-writing abilities. A mandolin even makes an appearance during ‘Passenger’.
Not for a second does she believe that the show is all about her. She constantly references the Together for Yes campaign, thanking them and encouraging people to show their support by buying a badge or a t-shirt.
“I’m so incredible inspired by the whole together for yes campaign, all of the canvassers and campaigners going out every day and talking to people and that’s the most important thing we can all do,” she told the audience.
“If you feel you can, do talk to someone in your life. That person could the change from an undecided to a yes that wins it. It’s going to be really close so please keep talking.”
Paul Noonan and Conor O’Brien came back on stage for the final few songs before fittingly closing with Villagers ‘Courage’.
“Courage, the sweet belief of knowing nothing comes for free” was the message that the three of them sang.
Courage is exactly what has been shown over the past few months and last night was a courageous thank you. Lisa Hannigan will be the first one to tell you that the fight isn’t over yet but last night provided a special sense of togetherness.