The live music experience can be very subjective. A punter's enjoyment of a gig can depend on time and place, circumstances, company, energy levels and alcohol intake. When preparing for his recent tour revisiting 'The River', Bruce Springsteen said that he was not only competing with the original River tour, but also with people's memories of the original River tour.
When a concert stands out in your memory as one of the best ever, it is asking for trouble hoping to repeat that experience. One of my own "best ever" memories was Paul Simon at Roskilde 1991. I had the opportunity to see Paul Simon again at Glastonbury 2011 and I was never so disappointed.
Another "best ever" gig was Séamus Begley & Tim Edey in 2007 at the Worldfleadh in Portlaoise. It was a midnight gig and they played for nearly three hours in a nightclub. I remember it as absolutely electrifying. I have seen both Séamus and Tim play since, but not together, and I wondered if they would be as good the second time around.
Séamus Begley is described by Mike Scott (in Adventures of a Waterboy) as “a box-playing cattle farmer with a back like a wardrobe and the most beautiful singing voice”. Tim Edey is a multi-instrumentalist extraordinaire (BBC Radio Two's Musician of the Year 2012) and he accompanies Séamus on guitar.
They were due to play one of the nicest venues in the country, the Seamus Ennis Centre in the Naul, on 24 September and so I made the trek up to North county Dublin. It was getting dark as I was going to the pub across the road to buy a pint for the gig. In the distance I saw a tall man talking into a mobile and I remember thinking he looked like Donogh Hennessy.
I did not get to test whether Séamus & Tim were still as outstanding nine years on from Portlaoise, as Tim had been struck by appendicitis and could not make the gig. Donogh Hennessy was replacing him. I have to admit I was disappointed. Over the years I have seen Séamus Begley perform with Steve Cooney, Jim Murray and Matt Griffin - all great guitarists playing in the style pioneered (so I am told; I am no expert) by the Australian Steve Cooney. Donogh Hennessy is a fabulous guitar player in his own right. I remember seeing him way back when he was part of Sharon Shannon's touring quartet; he was a founder member of Lúnasa and I have seen him play with Lumiere. He is a producer and owns a studio in Dingle. Mike Scott, again, once described Donogh, in a blog about session shenanigans post-Other Voices, as "the man who knows all the tunes".
The Naul got an excellent gig. The show was a mix of trad instrumentals (polkas, slides, reels, a waltz) and songs. Séamus' singing is unlike anything I have ever heard. There were many jokes too and they took requests. My own was a song they were most likely going to play anyway ('The early morning rain'), but there were some off the cuff requests as well, requiring the men to confer and hum for a bit.
The Seamus Ennis Centre is a music lover's dream: An intimate venue with great sound and always an attentive listening audience.
The show had an interval, allowing us to go across the road for a fresh pint. The guys played for over two hours. It was trad at its best and I had a fantastic evening. I still do not know whether Séamus Begley & Tim Edey can match that "one-of-best-ever" gigs. I hope to have the opportunity to check that out some time in the future.