- 04 Oct 21
Actor/musician Niall McNamee has built a devoted fanbase and performed sold-out concerts at notable London venues, including The Dublin Castle, The Bedford and The Antelope.
Niall McNamee’s birthplace may be Leicestershire, but his heart and soul is truly Celtic. For his first ever Irish gig, he is remarkably at ease in the intimate, stripped back venue of the rooftop Garden of Dublin’s Grand Social. The setting’s name is particularly apt for this solo, acoustic performance on a chilly Saturday evening in early October. It felt like a coming together of Niall’s friends and fans from all over Ireland & the UK.
Perhaps it’s his acting career that gives him natural confidence being front and centre. It was in the midst of his stage & screen roles that McNamee supported himself by performing Irish folk music around the bars. He is now turning those experiences into his own tunes. Impressively, in a 70-minute, 17-song set, only a couple of cover versions featured.
He is a natural storyteller with the gift of connecting with you immediately. You get an insight into the miles that this young journeyman musician has already clocked up, name-checking a multitude of places in the likes of ‘Rose of Marylebone’ and ‘5 Hours.’ ‘China in a Box’ explores the fragility of love & fate - “We’re just two born travellers, passing in the dark / but who we kidding, life it does the bidding.”
A self-confessed Dundalk FC fan, Niall battled effortlessly through broken guitar strings & tricky guitar re-tuning interludes, blaming the latter on his love of Paul Brady and some of his unorthodox musical keys. The up-tempo ‘Fishpond’ is a dedication to living in Tooting, west London.
Niall sadly lost his grandfather in the past 18 months. He was a man who clearly had a big influence on his upbringing, inspiring him to write the song ‘Clones Fireman’ in his honour. Although his grandad never got to hear it, his brother Gerry was at the gig in Dublin, and it was a genuinely touching moment watching and hearing Niall sing this one for him.
Niall’s partner, Imelda May made a brief appearance (on her way to the Late Late Show with Jedward) to sing the beautiful ‘Don’t Let Me Stand on my Own’ and the always poignant & uplifting Proclaimers cover - ‘Sunshine on Leith.’ Imelda mischievously confessed that she actually bought Niall a new guitar because it takes him so long to tune up between songs.
After a rousing ‘Delilah’ and ‘Happy Birthday’ to a delighted ‘Claire from Dundalk’ in the audience, Niall closed with ‘Step by Step’ and ‘The Knowledge’ - two of the songs that are featured in the forthcoming movie, ‘Love Without Walls’, which is due out early 2022. Niall is playing a lead role and has written the music for it - clearly finding a path that fuses his blossoming acting & musical talents.
I caught up with Niall after the gig, and he had this to say about his first ever Irish performance - “I had my first Irish dates booked for March 2020. From Dublin to Dundalk and Belfast, I was supposed to be supporting The Dubliners. I was gutted that they got cancelled. The pride and relief I felt to finally play in Dublin is the best feeling. The best part of it all was to have my great uncle Gerry there, who himself is an incredible musician. It meant the absolute world”
Niall McNamee’s ‘Step by Step’ five-track EP is out now.