CHRISTY MOORE Arena Magazine 1997
In October 1996 I talked with him before a concert in Castlebar, County Galway. Although more subdued on the question of Northern Ireland and the Nationalist cause than in the days when he was singing songs such as 'The Belfast Brigade' and was demonised as that 'Provo Bastard' by loyalists in the north, the moment he took centre stage his attack on the 'enemy' was as powerful as ever.
In the '80s the songs finding their way to Christy Moore continued the trend towards diversity and universality begun with Planxty. In 'Biko Drum', 'Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Russian Roulette', 'No Time for Love', 'Allende' (where the good doctor lies with blood in his eyes and the bullets read US of A), 'Remember the Brave Ones', and 'The City of Chicago', (the latter two written by his brother, Luka Bloom), Christy introduced his audience to songs whose poetic form was as good as the best of Bob Dylan but whose political message was unproblematic and collectivist in a way Dylan's could never be. Interspersed through the political anthems were ditties such as 'Messenger Boy' the love songs, 'Nancy Spain', and 'Black is the Colour' (of my true love's hair), and the 'craic'. I cry with joy when I listen to 'McIlhatton', a glorious lark to the poitín (potato whiskey) written by hunger-striker Bobby Sands not long before he died in Thatcher's H-block, Concentration Camp. With lines such as - 'There's a wisp of smoke to the south of the Glen and the poitín is on the air, The birds in the burrows and the rabbits in the sky and there's drunkards everywhere. At Skerries rock the fox is out and by god he's chasing the hounds And the only thing in dacent shape is buried beneath the ground', and a larrikin beat to kill for, any serious drinker who hasn't had the pleasure has seriously missed their calling. Whilst Christy Moore continues to exude recalcitrance and affirm the great Irish tradition of rarefying heroes and martyrs, fame has come at a price. The big performances at venues such as the Melbourne Concert Hall remain technically flawless, however they lack the intimacy of the village hall in Castlebar and tend to impede the story telling and the gentle narrative so central to his musical tradition. Still there are few performers who can stand before a microphone with only a guitar and a bodhran and so fire the spirits. As we watch the shallow debate over the Australian 'Republic' unfold it's not hard to understand why our own musical culture has struggled to peep above the global import. In the words and music of Paul Kelly, Kev Carmody, Michael Thomas (Weddings Parties Anything), Deborah Conway, Peter Garrett, Shane Howard and a small number of others, the journey into the politics of everyday life, indigenous and otherwise, has taken a form to rival that of the contemporary Irish musical scene. It seems however that until we resolve the question of who we are, the gurus will be gushing to the sound of Kylie and The Spice Girls and the only person doing the encores will be Christy Moore. ________________________________________Christy's book, 'One Voice' is discussed in the music section.