Tag Archives: BLACK 47

Black 47 @ 21

2011, Sees Black 47 reach legal drinking age – 21 years old – so we thought we’d buy founder and front man Larry Kirwan a large glass of Paddy’s and ask him to reflect on the last 21 years – the highs and lows of the band, politics, life, Ireland and America.

So Larry, if you knew what you know now back in 1989 would you do it again or would you have high-tailed it back to Wexford, to Bridie and the bank?

No, John, I’d do it again. Going back to Bridie and the bank just wasn’t an option anyway. There are things I would do differently in life, but in general I would do most things the same as regards Black 47. When you look back from a distance you see that your influences and experiences pretty much ineluctably pointed you in the direction that you took anyway. We always tried to do the right thing with Black 47 whether it was politically or pragmatically advantageous, so I feel okay about that. But in a way, as the Dead put it, it’s been a long strange trip – so much so that you just have to shake your head about it sometimes.

Seriously, 21 years together is a huge achievement for any band and especially having kept a pretty consistent line-up (4 out of 6 members are original) and having done the major label dance and surviving been hung out to dry by them – that would have crushed lesser bands – what keeps the band together, fresh and relevant today?

Well, again that comes from the array of influences and experiences. Most of us came from an improv background so we’re very used to making every gig a very different experience. Besides each member came from a very varied musical background. We’ve never done the same set twice in over 2200 gigs – no one knows just how many gigs we’ve performed but I would say it’s under 2300. That would set us pretty much apart from most rock-based bands. But it also means that each gig is a very different experience. So that tends to keep you fresh – even when you’re fatigued.

Chris Byrne (uilleann pipes) left the band in 2000 and Joseph Mulvanerty has been with us since then. That was the big change. But in the early days we didn’t have a bass player and most of our replacements over the years have been with that instrument. Back in the early 90’s we might use a bass player or not, depending on different circumstances. When we didn’t use one, Fred Parcells (trombone) and I (guitar) would hone in on our bass notes, so even that was a different experience and each of us still taps into it from time to time on stage.

I always expected that we’d get “dropped” by a major label and we did – but twice. I had a major label deal before with Epic in a new wave band called Major Thinkers, so I was in some way prepared for the hurly-burly of it with Black 47. We set up the band so that we could operate independently of the system. Daniel Glass, who signed us to EMI, got fired and we got the boot with him – all very normal – but we didn’t miss a beat. I remember the evening we got called into EMI to be told the awful news, and Chris and I went off and did a show with the band and barely mentioned it.

What amazed me was that Danny Goldberg signed the band within a year. We hadn’t let the grass grow under our feet but went straight into the studio and self-produced Green Suede Shoes. Danny heard Bobby Sands MP from the CD, was totally moved by it and straight away offered us a deal with Mercury. Then he got fired and we were adrift again. I think Dickie from the Bosstones might have told me we were caput with Mercury – they were on the same label – but again it didn’t take a feather off me. If you dance with the devil, you have to be prepared for a little heat. The trick is to continue to do your own thing and let the big company help you in whatever way they can. A lot of good money was wasted but we were always in creative control.

As regards relevant – well, we were always political, so whether it was the British problem in the North of Ireland, or the invasion of Iraq, we were very involved and took major stands. That doesn’t necessarily make you popular, and we suffered a lot for it from a financial point of view, but it sure as hell keeps you on the cutting edge. My real amazement is just how little other bands and musicians were interested in these long simmering events. From a sheer creative and songwriting angle, you couldn’t beat those two conflicts for drama, heartbreak and sheer cussedness – the backbone of powerful songwriting.

Then again, our people were getting hurt in Belfast and Baghdad, so we felt we had no other choice but to get involved. I wouldn’t have felt right about myself if I’d just been writing about Bridie and the bank. Besides, political writing has some major rewards: James Connolly was and still is a breakthrough in songwriting; I never hear Bobby Sands MP without being transported back to the streets of Belfast in early 1981. And I only have to play a track from IRAQ and the feeling of those crazy years from 2003-2008 comes tumbling back. Many American troops feel the same way.

All of these things help keep you fresh and, up until now anyway, relevant. I guess the day that ends, the dance will be done – but until then…

BLACK 47 @ 21 PART 2

February 4, 2011


Larry, you mention two things that have been consistent in Black 47 songs – politics and historical figures.

With politics, you’ve worn your politics proudly on your sleeve and as you say you “suffered a lot for it from a financial point of view”, do you feel that being so vocal about the North or Ireland painted you as a bunch of “Fellow Travelers” in the eyes of those who control the media outlets in Ireland and basically doomed the bands chances in Ireland for success (when normally the Irish media would be falling over the hottest band in NYC)?

That whole aspect was never anything but a minor consideration. We always looked westwards rather than back at Ireland, we always felt that we were living in the city of Miles Davis, Bob Dylan, Public Enemy and Television. If we looked back at Ireland at all it was to Sean O’Riada and the traditional music people. It’s not that there wasn’t good music coming from there, we just didn’t give it a lot of thought. As regards the politics, we were what we were, and to paraphrase Yeats, Was there another Troy for us to burn? We were political, though we never belonged to or followed any party – we were our own party and felt free to comment as we felt fit. We definitely didn’t feel as if the North of Ireland should be run from London. And we felt that we could present some of the viewpoints of the nationalist population of the North of Ireland. We didn’t agree with internment or trial without jury but, never, in any of our songs did we advocate violence. Neither did we think that you should thank the British Army for occupying Irish streets and terrorizing Irish people. But we were also full square against sectarianism. We always felt that these were very important stands and if they cost you commerciality, so what? That’ what we were and still are. But, really, what would Black 47 be without the political stands? A plain looking Corrs with drinking problems?

And with Irish historical characters you’ve written about – James Connolly, Red Hugh O’Donnell, Michael Collins, Bobby Sands and Robert Kennedy to name a few – what is your thinking when you choose to write a song about someone (are you interested in the person’s life story, what they stood for, to educate, or political idea)? Who else is out there that you would like to write about (Charles J Haughey)?

The characters have to be inspiring and stand for something. They have to really move me as a writer. I don’t write those songs as any kind of intellectual exercise – and they are not characters that I’ve just discovered. Usually, their memory or example or what they’ve stood for has been burning inside me for a long time. And that’s not just in the songs – but in the plays I’ve written also. I spent years working on Mister Parnell and if you really want to get to the heart of some of the characters in the 1916 insurrection then take a read of Blood. They’re both in a collection of my plays called Mad Angels.

But as regards the songs, Bobby Sands MP took me almost 15 years to write. It would have been a breeze to write some kind of trad song and notate his history, but I found it very hard to capture the times and the ethos of the man. I had to find a way inside his head – how does a person decide to make such an ultimate sacrifice? I found that way when I remembered he had a son. That was the link I needed and the song pretty much poured out then. It was actually maybe twice as long on a first draft and I edited it down to its present form. It may be Black 47’s finest recording. Anytime I hear it, I’m instantly back on those streets of Belfast in 1980-81 during the Hunger Strike. Amazing to think that it’s 30 years ago exactly now. I was touring Ireland back then with Major Thinkers.

James Connolly may be our best song because it’s the first of its kind. I had come from a background of writing plays. I wanted to take the Irish Sean-Nos form of traditional singing and bring it into the 20th Century. Not just to recount events as the Sean Nos form did, but to use modern psychology and method acting – where you use Stanislavsky techniques to become the character you’re acting. Instead of merely recounting Connolly’s history, I basically have to become him in the song – an ex-British soldier – and get to the bottom of why he’s about to give up his life for an ideal. I’m often asked what’s the greatest moment in B47 history – people often think it’s playing some prestigious gig or eing on Letterman, Leno, O’Brien; but no, it’s the first time we ever did that song in Paddy Reilly’s in 1990 and the silence that descended on that rowdy crowd, the first time we did it. Everyone in the room knew we had done something different.

The historical songs have to mean something – Red Hugh O’Donnell from Bankers and Gangsters is one of our best songs – and I’m thrilled to say so because it’s one of our latest. He had been a hero of mine as a boy. But he’s also just a bit too removed in time to be able to interpret him from a 20/21st century psychological point of view. I had given up on him until I took an interest in Ahmed Shah Massoud, leader of the Northern Alliance in the war against the Taliban. He was assassinated by order of Osama Bin Laden on Sept. 10th, 2001. I couldn’t believe the parallels between him and Red Hugh – both nationalist, religious fundamentalists, fighting a losing war, surrounded by powerful enemies. By tacking into Massoud I felt able to channel another tragic and major figure, Red Hugh O’Donnell. I also wished to examine the paranoia of someone far from home who feels he may be poisoned by his enemies – in this case Queen Elizabeth of England. And he was right.

I won’t be writing about Charlie Haughey from a political/historical point of view. But he might fit into the Black 47 slightly rogue’s gallery. Who knows. You never know where the next song will come from. Right now, I’m trying to finish a new novel and a new play, so songwriting is on the back burner.

Larry Kirwan does HARD TIMES, A Civil War Musical

August 30, 2012

Black 47’s Larry Kirwan has written a musical set in Civil War era New York during the Draft Riots. The Federal Government hard pressed for army recruits introduced the draft but gave a exception to anyone who could afford to pay $300 to buy their away out. The poor (often newly arrived Irish immigrants) rioted over 3 days burning draft stations and attacking the wealthy Yankee upper class and African-American who they feared would take their jobs if slavery ended. The rioting only ended when Federal troops were bought into the city to squash the riot.

S’n’O – Larry, I know you are the author of many off Broadway plays over the years. Is Hard Times your first musical?

Larry Kirwan – No, I’ve written a number of them including, Days of Rage, Rockin’ The Bronx and Mister Parnell, so I guess I’m an old hand. It’s a bitch of a genre. Plays are tough enough but you have to be totally daft to do musicals, there’s just so much to pull together. I suppose it’s like anything though, the more you do it, the better you get.

S’n’O – Hard Times is set during the American Civil War and specifically during the New York Draft Riots. Can you give the readers a little back ground on the Riots. What caused the riots? And what happened during the riots.

Larry Kirwan – Hard Times is set during the Draft Riots of 1863 but it’s not really about them, per se. Basically, I feel that the US in general, and NYC in particular was changed on July 13, 1863. Up until then Irish women and African-American men lived together and were often married in the Five Points area of downtown NYC. They were called “amalgamationists.” After the burning of the Colored Children’s Asylum the fluidity that existed between different people in NYC was squashed and the US set out on a path of 100 years of segregation and discrimination. That’s the setting for a moment when Stephen Foster meets someone from his past.

S’n’O – What was the inspiration for the play – the New York Draft Riots were possibly the lowest point in the Irish-American experience (arguably something best forgotten)- one group on the bottom rung of the social order turning on the group not yet on the bottom rung while the elite buy their way out of danger yet still make the decisions – is there a message that resonates in today’s political climate? (Anti-immigrant sentiments, racial politics and the Tea Party or class divisions and the Occupy movement)

Larry Kirwan – With the exception of the Occupy Movement all of those things you mention were present in 1863 and I suppose Abolitionist feeling could double for the Occupy Movement. History is never black & white but a million shades of grey. Awful things happened that day but that’s not what the play is about. It’s about five people trapped inside a saloon and how they react to the events happening outside. Stephen Foster, the composer, happens to be one of them.

S’n’O – The music was co-written with Stephen Foster which is a great achievement given Stephen is nearly 150 years dead. Who was Stephen Foster and why was his music so important? What type of stamp did Larry Kirwan put onto the mega hits of the 1860’s? Will Celtic rocks fans enjoy?

Larry Kirwan – Yeah, I should probably have phrased the “written by Stephen Foster & Larry Kirwan” differently but it’s what actually happened. I wanted to use his songs and was able to find a dozen that fitted well with, and moved along, the story. But most of his songs had been frozen and calcified by their treatment in the Victorian years. I wanted to let them breathe again. One of the ways of doing that was to write contrapuntal intros and bridges – in Foster’s era those devices hadn’t been introduced into popular music yet. I had done that quite a bit when Black 47 updated Irish melodies and added new words to them – I always added original intros and bridges to add flavor to the songs and make them more interesting musically So, I knew how to do it. Amazingly – to me at any rate – most of Foster’s songs veered towards Gospel or Irish when unmoored. I think these new versions will make Foster’s songs more palatable to Celtic Rock fans. But who cares what other people think. I’ve always done what I wanted and luckily there’s always been an audience for the end result.

S’n’O – Who is the audience that will enjoy Hard Times – Irish Americans, New Yorkers or is there a wider audience (and message)?

Larry Kirwan – God, I don’t know. I guess I tend not to think in those terms. Let’s just say that Stephen Foster was gifted with a particular genius. I’m not quite sure what it is but when unleashed it tends to move you in the most soulful manner. It’s like being touched by something from another world so I would imagine anyone with a bit of soul will feel it. I know I do. Foster was a complicated person – our first professional songwriter – he died 6 months after the events in Hard Times at the age of 37 with 38 cents in his pocket. I think anyone who has been touched by the music business will identify with the story of this brilliant, tortured man.

S’n’O – Any plans to tour with Hard Times or bring it beyond Manhattan?

Larry Kirwan – Not at this point. It’s an achievement to even get the project up and breathing. I couldn’t have done it at all without the support of the wonderful people at The Cell, including Nancy Manocherian, artistic director and Kira Simring the director.

S’n’O – Cheers Larry! I”m going to try make it down.

Larry Kirwan – A pleasure, John. I think it will be well worth the trip. The six actors are so committed to their roles. I think we’ll create some magic and hopefully re-introduce Foster to a very different world.

https://www.facebook.com/events/422676514450350

Hard Times will be performed at The Cell, 338 W. 23rd St., NYC Sept. 13-30th as part of the First Irish Theatre Festival. For info http://www.thecelltheatre.org

Directed by Kira Simring and produced by Nancy Manocherian of The Cell, performances Sept 13, 14, 15, 19, 21, 22, 24, 27, 28, 29, 30.

Hard Times stars Jed Peterson as Stephen Foster, Erin West as Jane Foster, Almeria Campbell as Nelly Blythe, Phillip Callen as Michael Jenkins, Stephane Duret as Thomas Jefferson and John Charles McLaughlin as Owen Duignan.

Black47: the Larry Kirwan interview

April 2002

Black 47 are the original and most original Irish rock band in the US – today, yesterday or tomorrow. Thanks to Larry Kirwan for taking the time to answer my questions.

(S’n’O) The first time I saw Black 47 was back in 92(?) at the “Trip to Tipp” in Semple Stadium, Thurles. If I remember correctly B47 played about 11.30 am and I was there to watch Therapy? (I was a “Heavy Kettler” in those days) who were the next band up. Despite my whiskey induced hangover B47 blew me away musically and lyrically with a sound I’d never heard before. I’ve yet to hear another band that sounds like Black 47. Why is that? What makes Black 47 so unique?

(LK) I remember that show because my voice started to go during James Connolly. I think we had just arrived in the country under a lot of stress. We didn’t have a soundman traveling with us, at the time ,and I had to go an explain to the “house” sound engineer what the band was all about. Which leads to your question. Because he looked at me, his mouth somewhat open ,as I explained the instrumentation – Drum machine, electric guitar, uilleann pipes, African percussion, bass, sax and trombone. Nevertheless, he did an admirable job.

I had actually thought that, with the success of Black 47, there would have been more imitators but the reality is that the sound is unique and the players even more so. They’re not exactly replaceable. Each one comes from a different background of either big band jazz, Stax soul, classical, downtown noise, folk, etc. and each had done stints in improv bands. So, there is a certain fearlessness. As a writer, also, I’ve never been afraid (or perhaps been confident enough in the writing) that I don’t mind the songs being worked on, at an early stage, in front of an audience. Most writers like to have their songs somewhat polished and ready for an audience before they’ll showcase them. Because of Black 47’s schedule, we rarely rehearse; thus as soon as I have a rough arrangement ready, the band tries the songs out onstage, modifies (or even throws away) the arrangement and just goes for it. Then again, the lyrical content is pretty broad, dealing with everything from politics to bawdy humor with gusto and passion. So, there are a lot of contents to the Black 47 sound and, even with this long-winded explanation, I’m probably leaving out some vital elements that listeners would suggest.

(S’n’O) The Irish media have always jumped on the bandwagon of anything Irish that’s making noise in America and Black 47 for years now have been know as “the Irish” rock band and been in every publication from Rolling Stone to Newsweek yet Black 47 are an ignored, unknown quantity in Ireland. What do you attribute that to?

(LK) Oh, politics, undoubtedly. And also, we’ve never fitted in any genre and actually despise the fact that bands should be expected to fit. We’re a genre of one and proud of it. We, actually, did receive quite a lot of press in Ireland around 92 because we were getting such press and word of mouth in NYC. But, we always had a political agenda which was to keep the British problems in the North of Ireland on the front burner. Now, to the politically correct Southern Irish, this was a heresy. They wanted their politics to be the airy U2 type of conviction – that the earth must be saved, and that everyone be kind to each other (views that I share and I think that U2 are a tremendous live band); but ours were much more specific – that habeas corpus be restored to the 6 counties, that the rights of the minority be restored and respected, and that eventually the British should cede security of the “province” to an EU or UN force.

Now, on top of all this, we’ve had two major record deals – one with EMI and the other with Mercury. The Irish representatives of both companies seemed frightened and a bit ashamed of the band’s views – there was a war going on in the North at the time and each company felt very uncomfortable having a band such as Black 47 on their label. They felt that it didn’t make them look good when they would have to go over to London. The British companies weren’t too keen on us either. So, they would release the cds, let them gradually sell out and then not print any more. There you have it. It’s a shame but what were we to do. Drop the politics and become an ugly looking Coors? As Yeats put it, “Was there another Troy for us to burn?” We were and continue to be political. It’s cost a great deal but such is life.

(S’n’O) Larry, would you consider compromising your lyrics/ politics/ activism for the big record label push to success? How important are the politics/ activism to the Black 47 sound?

(LK) I didn’t see this question before answering the last one. I think we’ve already demonstrated that we would never compromise. In fact, I’m not even sure I’d know how to. We are political and activist too. But, for those who are not familiar with the band, it’s important to point out that there are also many other sides to our music. Black 47 is a great rollicking rock band who play and live life to the fullest. About 30 to 50% of the songs are political. Many of the other songs deal with life in general. There’s a lot of romance, humor and loss in the songs. Some are about emigrants, many are about New York City and they all deal with redemption (not the established church type) but the feeling that life is important. You may have a rough day or week or year but you still have to get up the next morning and do it again. Black 47 has written a soundtrack for the people who rise to the occasion, day after day.

(S’n’O) Along the same lines what’s the most important, commercial or critical success (or success at all)? Do you feel that you’ve musically achieved what you wanted when you started Black 47?

(LK) I’ve never thought about critics (professional or otherwise). I know when the song is good and when the audience is with you. I don’t need to be told – for better or worse. I’m a professional musician and a professional writer. We’ve had commercial success and, perhaps, will have more of it. But it never affected how I wrote, perform or feel. I’m immensely proud of the band, what it achieves every night, and of the songs I’ve written for Black 47. In the long run, we have a body or work that is top shelf and stands up to anything out there – both musically and lyrically. But then, I don’t tend to look back. That’s for other people to do. The band is vital and goes on making new music. As soon as we stop doing that, then it will be time to call it a day. But, for now, the new songs sound great. We’re always looking to break new ground. And, I’ve always gone along with Jim Morrison’s words as regards creation – “the future’s uncertain and the end is always near.” I felt that 12 years ago when we formed and it’s still in my mind today. We never set out to do anything except make great music and be original. As long as we continue to do that, we’ll stay together. If we don’t…..there are other easier ways to make a living.

(S’n’O) What are your long term goals/ambitions/dreams for Black 47?

(LK) I think that’s summed up in the last question. Tonight’s show in Boston is the most important we’ve ever done. Then Saturday’s show in Connolly’s will supplant that and so on…

(S’n’O) After songs about Connelly, Collins, Sands, RFK and Joyce (well his grave at least). Is there any other historical figure that you’d like to write about?

(LK) Oh, there are many. You just have to find the right setting for them. I took my background as a playwright and wrote about Connolly, Sands, Collins, Countess Markievicz, etc by delving into their personalities (rather like a method actor) and becoming the subject onstage. It was a relatively new concept in rock writing and performing. But each one was treated differently. Finding the way into the heads of these people and then defining them in a different setting is not easy and takes time. I’m presently working on one about James Larkin (Connolly’s superior in the Labor Movement in Ireland) and I’m having a hard time. Two steps forward, one step back. On the solo cd, Kilroy Was Here, I’ve also worked with (in a more elliptical form) James Joyce’s releationship with Norah/Molly and the Spanish poet Garcia Lorca. So, it goes on. I’ve thought of doing a new solo project where I’ll just take a dozen important poltical figures (to me) and deal with their lives. But time is tight.

(S’n’O) Have you found younger fans digging for information about people like Connelly or Collins that they my not have heard of previously? What’s the feedback from the fans like on these people?

(LK) Oh, yeah, that happens all the time. You see, we don’t lecture people on stage. The songs are written in an allegorical manner. They set out the facts and delve into the personalities. Then it’s up to people to take what they want from those ideas. But we’re not like, say, The Clash (whom I adore). We don’t tell people what they should think. Rather, we introduce them to ideas and hope some of the ideas lead them to investigate topics and people in their own way. And that happens all the time. The emails I receive are extraordinary. People come home from a show and write asking a few extra questions; you reply to them. And then you might hear back a year later. The person has done extensive research and now may inform me of things I didn’t know. And so on, like a ball being batted back & forth. It’s a wonderful experience. The songs are also used in hundreds of college and high school courses around the country. And from time to time, I go out and speak in front of classes at the request of professors and teachers. Which can be fun. But there is nothing quite like the high of becoming James Connolly on stage in front of an appreciative crowd, who no doubt, are experiencing the same transformation.

(S’n’O) Finally, after “10 Bloody Years” how much do you think B47 have had a hand in modernizing Irish-America and Irish-American culture?

(LK) Of course. But I don’t think of it as modernizing. Rather we reintroduce Irish-Americans and anyone else who cares to their roots, many heroes, and to a way of seeing the world around them. We get people to think and that’s about the best gift we can give anyone.

Good luck with the site. Anyone who wants to write to me can do so at blk47@aol.com or visit http://www.black47.com

There’s Clare! – Black 47, Jackdaw, The Gobshites, IceWagon Flu Rockin’ The Catskills (September 2006)

I looked down just about every bottle of beer that was put in my hand, all the way to the bottom and did not find her anywhere. For three days we looked and she just wasn’t at the bottom of any of my glasses, where could she be?

I did find the Gobshite himself Pete Depressed wandering around all weekend looking to, he couldn’t find her either. We sat and talked it over, he convinced me to start my own band and actually be in it instead of just managing it. I told him I can’t remember lyrics to save my life, he said he was the same way when he got his start, yeah but has no one heard of you can’t teach a old dog new tricks and I’m the oldest dirtiest mangiest mutt out there. So after convincing me I decided that I couldn’t be distracted anymore and move on to the other side of the bar thinking I saw Clare over there. Well when I got to that side of the bar she wasn’t there but my old bag squeezing friend Joe from Black 47 was there hanging out with P2. Himself and I looked down a few bottles for her while we regaled days of old. We still couldn’t find her for the life of us.

Well finally Icewagon Flu got off the stage, and I was sure they would know, but at last after grabbing more bottles and searching down the one they was sure she would be, she once again eluded us. My brother was sure the shooter girls would know and pursued them for the truth rather vigorously, they didn’t know and he paid for his interrogation in the morning for sure, with memory loss, extreme loss of motivate to continue the hunt early, and strange unexplained headaches.

As The Gobshites played I was too distracted to look, as I felt compelled to sing along to there haunting love ballads and sweet classical music. Still riding on the high of such a great energy filled live set from Icewagon Flu, the Shites were able to step it up even one more notch. I’ve always said it’s not really how good the band plays there instruments, but how well they play the crowd, and this weekend showed why these particular bands are the top of the music scene for sure. But I digress, this is a hunt for Clare and I can’t be distracted!

I return to the bar with the indifferent and not to helpful bartenders opened a couple bottles that I might be where I’d find her, but no luck, I’ll just have to keep looking, but wait who’s on now? That old blond haired leprechaun in green shoes just jumped up wailing on his guitar, this could be interesting. All this determined searching for Clare also pulls me towards distraction after continuously being disappointed of not finding her. So I decide to get around me a good group of folks and chat up the dealings of the weekend and listen to that ever popular Black 47 organized noise. Joe was up there squeezing has bag in front of everyone in between swigs from a mystery bottle.

As they start pouring them off stage, I thought the night was just about over as my search and rescue funds were running really low, my brother and I were feeling a little odd as if there was some sort of narcotic like alcohol injected into our veins. It seemed that we were never going to find this mystery woman Clare. We began at that time to say our goodbyes.

Then as if the lighthouse shining through the fog giving us bearings, there she is right up on the stage the Gobshites were just on two hours ago! She was with the Jackdaw guys all night; boy was it worth the wait. They were a great bunch of lads and they even played a song about her that is still stuck in my head. I stayed and said the hell with the search and rescue funds, and drained them rabidly ready to stumble back to the tent, I’m sure we’ll find her again in the morning.

Review by Therover413

Black 47 – BB Kings, NYC ( November 15, 2015)

One Last Jig with Black 47

(New York City) – Twenty five years ago, Larry Kirwan sat in Paddy Reilly’s with Chris Byrne and launched a different kind of Irish band, with a sound that drew in not just Irish music, but funk, soul, punk, reggae, folk, and blues, all tinged with Kirwan’s Irish Republican rebel point of view. It was a formula that attracted thousands to their now legendary gigs at Reilly’s (and later Connolly’s) on Saturday nights, and led them to major label deals, festivals like Farm Aid, appearances on Letterman, Conan and the Tonight Show, and a reputation as “the house band of New York City.” Eventually, Byrne moved on to his own musical projects, Joseph Mulvanerty stepped in on the pipes, and but for a few changes, the band lineup of Kirwan, sax player Geoffrey Blythe, trombone and whistle player Fred Parcells, bass player Joseph “Bearclaw” Burcaw, and drummer Thomas Hamlin has stayed more or less in tact over the last decade.

Last Saturday, they put their final coda on it and played their last show at BB King’s in Times Square, and fans and friends from all over came out of the woodwork to send them off. The two and a half hour show featured all of their biggest hits, some fan favorites, and guest appearances for nearly every song. It was an Irish wake for a band that, up until the very end, made every show a scorcher.

The room was absolutely packed. The night kicked off right at 8 with “Green Suede Shoes,” and the band didn’t look back from there. Kirwan was in rare form, telling stories about the early days, relating the inspiration for some of the band’s most popular songs, and beaming with pride as his son Rory joined them on stage for the toasting rap in Fire of Freedom. Other guests like Mary Courtney (“Livin’ in America”) and Christine Ohlman (“Blood Wedding”) added a special touch to the evening. The highlight, for this writer, was seeing Byrne join them one last time for “Walk All the Days.”

As you’d expect, all the big hits were aired out – “Big Fellah,” “Rockin’ the Bronx,” “Fanatic Heart,” “40 Shades of Blue,” and a particularly stirring version of “James Connolly” that had nearly every fist in the room raised. They ended their regular set with “Funky Ceili,” before coming back out for an encore of “Maria’s Wedding,” a medley of “Gloria/I Fought the Law (with Byrne once again coming out to join in, along with longtime tour manager P2, superfan Tom Marlow, and former bass player Rob Graziano),” and an impromptu a capella version of “Happy Trails,” Van Halen style, with Burcaw providing the “bum-bah-dee-dah” a la David Lee Roth; Mulvanerty, Graziano and P2 doing the harmonizing.

While it was bittersweet to think that this was the last time we’d all be together for a Black 47 show, there were very few tears at the end of the night. We all knew we’d been part of an amazing ride with one of the best live bands in rock ‘n’ roll. There’s no doubt they’ll be missed, but as cliché as it sounds, the musical legacy they’ve left behind will be around for a very long time. As the song goes, “That’s the story so far of Black 47.”

One Last Jig with Black 47

(New York City) – Twenty five years ago, Larry Kirwan sat in Paddy Reilly’s with Chris Byrne and launched a different kind of Irish band, with a sound that drew in not just Irish music, but funk, soul, punk, reggae, folk, and blues, all tinged with Kirwan’s Irish Republican rebel point of view. It was a formula that attracted thousands to their now legendary gigs at Reilly’s (and later Connolly’s) on Saturday nights, and led them to major label deals, festivals like Farm Aid, appearances on Letterman, Conan and the Tonight Show, and a reputation as “the house band of New York City.” Eventually, Byrne moved on to his own musical projects, Joseph Mulvanerty stepped in on the pipes, and but for a few changes, the band lineup of Kirwan, sax player Geoffrey Blythe, trombone and whistle player Fred Parcells, bass player Joseph “Bearclaw” Burcaw, and drummer Thomas Hamlin has stayed more or less in tact over the last decade.

Last Saturday, they put their final coda on it and played their last show at BB King’s in Times Square, and fans and friends from all over came out of the woodwork to send them off. The two and a half hour show featured all of their biggest hits, some fan favorites, and guest appearances for nearly every song. It was an Irish wake for a band that, up until the very end, made every show a scorcher.

The room was absolutely packed. The night kicked off right at 8 with “Green Suede Shoes,” and the band didn’t look back from there. Kirwan was in rare form, telling stories about the early days, relating the inspiration for some of the band’s most popular songs, and beaming with pride as his son Rory joined them on stage for the toasting rap in Fire of Freedom. Other guests like Mary Courtney (“Livin’ in America”) and Christine Ohlman (“Blood Wedding”) added a special touch to the evening. The highlight, for this writer, was seeing Byrne join them one last time for “Walk All the Days.”

As you’d expect, all the big hits were aired out – “Big Fellah,” “Rockin’ the Bronx,” “Fanatic Heart,” “40 Shades of Blue,” and a particularly stirring version of “James Connolly” that had nearly every fist in the room raised. They ended their regular set with “Funky Ceili,” before coming back out for an encore of “Maria’s Wedding,” a medley of “Gloria/I Fought the Law (with Byrne once again coming out to join in, along with longtime tour manager P2, superfan Tom Marlow, and former bass player Rob Graziano),” and an impromptu a capella version of “Happy Trails,” Van Halen style, with Burcaw providing the “bum-bah-dee-dah” a la David Lee Roth; Mulvanerty, Graziano and P2 doing the harmonizing.

While it was bittersweet to think that this was the last time we’d all be together for a Black 47 show, there were very few tears at the end of the night. We all knew we’d been part of an amazing ride with one of the best live bands in rock ‘n’ roll. There’s no doubt they’ll be missed, but as cliché as it sounds, the musical legacy they’ve left behind will be around for a very long time. As the song goes, “That’s the story so far of Black 47.”

Review & photos John Curtin

Review & photos John Curtin