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Liverpool, Royal Philharmonic Hall, 31 May 2006
Thanks to this commitment of mine towards supporting all the founder members of the 'Woman's Heart' phenomenon, I've managed to collect one or two albums from Mary Black.
I've been so focussed on one or two of the others that I took Mary's albums for granted and ignored them somewhat.
A couple of months ago I received a listing from the Liverpool Philharmonic and Mary was due to appear at the end of May. There was an autograph missing on my AWH album sleeve so the tickets had to be bought.
The early start (7:30) meant there wasn't much time to dash home from work and get back into city centre Liverpool in good time for the show. That prospect removed any pre-gig excitement, so as we found our seats the frame of mind was to just take in whatever comes.
In no time at all the auditorium lights dimmed and the midnight blue stage lighting was all that prevented a full house from experiencing a total blackout. The four members of her backing band took their positions before Mary entered the stage to generous, yet polite, applause.
Singer Mary's first musical contribution was the harmonica bars that open ‘Land of Love', the first track on her latest album, Full Tide.
The ascent from my pre-gig lethargy towards euphoria hit vertical as the first note was struck, such is the magic behind a live act.
Her second song followed straight away. It was an old favourite - (printed on the setlist as 'Adam')
Then came the spoken word.
She explained that was how things would pan out for the evening. A few songs from her latest album filtered in with the old favourites. It was while she was talking that I drew immediate comparisons with her sister Frances. Mary's band had a drummer, but the rest of the band were placed in the same positions.
Keyboard player on her left, then the bass player, back left, drummer behind and lead guitarist on her right.
Mary confidently throws in a good story between songs albeit more aimed towards the songwriter. There were mentions about the family. Indeed, her son Danny was listed as accompaniment on this tour but he wasn't available on this particular evening as he was representing Dublin playing in a sporting fixture against Wexford.
The disappointment over his absence soon evaporated when her daughter Roisin joined in for a couple of songs. If Roisin follows in Mum's footsteps she won't go short of money that's for sure.
The first half ended on a couple of personal favourites, 'No Frontiers' and 'Stand Up'. No Frontiers was penned by Jimmy McCarthy and it was recently covered by The Corrs on their Unplugged album. 'Stand Up' is from her latest album.
Towards the end of the second half 'Real You' (from Full Tide) drifted into a jam by the band where each member was spotlighted for a solo stint closing with Bill Shanley giving a guitar solo that would have left Carlos Santana gasping for breath.
The main body of the show consisted of two halves of about 9 songs each and two returns for encores. It would be difficult for anyone to find fault in around two hours of top-class entertainment.
I consider myself lucky to have witnessed a legend in action and I spent the rest of the night wondering why I'd let Mary Black just pass me by.
Pat Crowley - Keyboards, Accordion
James Blennerhassett - Bass, Occasional Keyboards
Martin Ditcham - Percussion
Bill Shanley - Lead Acoustic Guitar
Mary Black - Vocals, Occasional Harmonica, Tambourine, Shaker, Bodhran
Roisin O'Reilly - Guest Vocals
1. Land of Love - 2. Adam - 3. Siul A Run - 4. St. Kilda - 5. Columbus
6. Your Love - 7. Saw You Running - 8. No Frontiers - 9. Stand Up
1. Bright Blue Rose - 2. By The Time It Gets Dark - 3. Make You Feel My Love -
4. Carolina Rua - 5. Don't Let Me Come Home A Stranger - 6. Katie
7. Summer Sent You - 8. Real You - 9. Flesh & Blood
Lay Down/Just Once in a Very Blue Moon/Past the Point of Rescue
2nd Encore featured Ellis Island
and she definitely sang Moon River somewhere in the set.
Review by Graham Ashmore