“Not for the fainthearted (no seats, no lifts, no arty fartys) it is a basic room but it is imbued with the spirit of 10,000 gigs.” That’s Christy Moore on why Glasgow’s Barrowland is one of his favourite venues in the world. Our guest blogger Anna Levin probes a little further.
I’ve always thought that Barrowland gigs and Glasgow Royal Concert Hall gigs were two very different things. Both are special venues in their own right, but with a very different atmosphere and audience and with different acts. There can’t be many who play both on the same tour.
It says something about Christy Moore’s standing that he can fill both venues, and about his performance that he fits both so well. But then I can’t think of a venue that he wouldn’t fit or fill. I’ve seen him at small clubs and large festivals over the past 25 years and the gigs are warm, intimate and astonishingly powerful. I’ve come to realise the venue doesn’t matter one bit – the atmosphere comes from the man himself.
For Christy Moore is a pure star. He sings a timeless music that’s always sharp and contemporary. He picks songs that express things perfectly, then sings them perfectly. His songs flow between times and places – from Ireland to South Africa to El Salvador to Morecambe Bay – always touching on common themes of compassion and humanity.
It can be uncomfortable hearing songs about sexual violence and oppression. “Some songs aren’t easy to listen to, but need to be sung,” Christy acknowledges. So you’re shaken a bit, then soothed by that rich, warm, velvet voice (“If Guinness could sing…” says my neighbour). He moves with ease from anger to light-hearted warmth and wonderful wit, engaging in easy going banter with hecklers and endless requests from the audience.
I’ve said the venue doesn’t matter, but there’s no doubt that the Barras has a special place in Christy’s heart. Here’s what he has to say about ‘the grand auld hall’:
“I first visited The Barrows in 1967 and Barrowland 20 years later in 1987. My first gig in Scotland was in The Glasgow Folk Centre, Montrose St in ’67.
“Drew Moyes was the organiser of the club. As I recall I opened for Hamish Imlach and subsequently was booked to do a set some time later. The Scotia Bar was the meeting place for musicians and it was just my kind of pub in 1967. I met Arthur Johnson, Mick Broderick, Billy Connolly, Danny Kyle, Tam Harvey, Gerry Rafferty, Red Billy, Big Pat and that was just my first visit.
“Twenty years on I got my first gig in Barrowland and it has been one of my favourite venues in the world ever since. Not for the fainthearted (no seats, nor lifts, no arty fartys) it is a basic room but it is imbued with the spirit of 10,000 gigs. From Bill McGregor and his GayBirds up to whoever might be pulling them in today…”.
He’s not the only musician, of course, to love the Barrowland, but – in collaboration with Dublin songwriter Wally Page – he’s the one who can express that affinity, that sense of history, so eloquently in song:
There’s an easy place down Gallowgate to the East End of Glasgow
It’s a ballroom of remembrance and a disco
Where the shooting stars light up the fresco
Where the last ones and the lovers go … to carry on
We sang about the Nicky Tams in the back room of the Scotia
We drank sweet wines and called for neon pints of Fidel Castro
Till it was time to fly to dreamland
Out of Bairds, up the stairs to hell or to heaven we’d go
Come all you dreamers hear the sound of the Barrows humming
Come all you dreamers to Barrowland
Hear Mags McIvor and the ghost of the GayBirds calling
Come all you dreamers to Barrowland
The Lassies of the Broomielaw in their Cuban Heels are dancing
Here comes Our Lady of the Clyde and there goes Jinky Johnston
They’ve come back to rock and roll in the church of ceili
To waltz beneath the carousel of healing
To jitterbug and boogie the night away
Come all you dreamers……….
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