KITCHEN SINK DRAMA
So, we’re in the Olympia Theatre and — no, wait, let’s not start there. Let’s start in the park, a couple of years back, when The Dog came upon a like-minded individual, and the two of them — a pair of joyful, playful mutts — ran off together leaving me and the other animal’s owners calling after the truants. ‘Denis!’ I shouted, for shamefully, that is The Dog’s name. ‘Christy!’ the other couple called out. ‘Is your dog really called Denis?’ they asked, prompting a reciprocal question from me. ‘Yes,’ they confirmed, ‘we called him after Christy Dignam.’ And I loved that — no just that anyone would name a dog for Christy, but also that Christy Dignam the Dog was a big, loping happy eejit, and not one of these pampered pooches that snap at your ankles.
So we’re in the Olympia and — no, not yet. First, a hundred other venues, a long, long time ago, when Aslan were the next big thing and we all crowded in to watch the band and their talismanic lead singer run through sets that placed them head and shoulders above the competition. And afterwards, the parties, the fun, the friendships, the nonsense, the laughter and the sort of stories that would still frighten the most stoic horse. Let’s just say that I misspent a considerable portion of my youth with Aslan, and, looking back now, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. We had the time of our lives, and we thought we were invincible.
And we were wrong. And that’s why we’re in the Olympia tonight, because Christy Dignam is currently fighting the fight of his life and we’re here primarily to raise funds for his cancer treatment — but also to pay tribute to the hardest-working band in showbusiness and their inspirational frontman. When this gig was announced, nobody was sure Christy would even be able to attend, but his health is holding up at the moment and he’s here, sitting in a box overlooking a stage heaving with Irish rock royalty. On and on they come, these singers and bands who have each chosen their favourite Aslan track to perform tonight along with Joe, Billy, Alan and Rod, who haven’t performed these songs live since their singer received his devastating diagnosis. There’s Mark Feehily, making his solo debut and taking the house
I misspent a good portion of my youth with Aslan and, looking back, I wouldn’t have had it any other way
down in the process. Ryan Sheridan, delivering a spine-tingling version of Wish You Were Here. Paul Brady and Jedward, Danny O’Reilly and his ageless mother, Mary Black, Gavin Friday and Jerry Fish and so many more that you start to wonder how they’re fitting them all backstage.
U2, on video from New York, perform an astonishing version of This Is that must have made them wish they’d thought of it first. Tom Dunne — who, along with his fellow Something Happens members, was an accomplice in so many of those mad nights so long ago — belts out another gem and announces that he feels as though he’s just been unfaithful, and everyone laughs at that. And Billy McGuinness, waving at 50 from the wrong direction, climbs on top of a 10-foot-high amp stack to encourage a heaving crowd that needs no encouragement whatsoever to sing along.
Obviously, I spend a considerable part of the night in tears. I cry when Tony Fenton comes out because he’s fighting — and, thankfully, winning — his own battle with cancer. I cry when the Dublin Gospel Choir slip beautifully into gear behind Mark Feehily, and I cry because as the night draws to a close, I’m afraid that Christy won’t be able to sing Crazy World, and I cry because if he does, then I don’t want it to be the last time I see him do it.
He does. And it is his usual, pitch-perfect, spiky performance of that timeless classic, and although he really doesn’t need any help at all, his daughter Kiera and grandson Kian help him out with a few bars while most of the players of the last 30 years in the Irish music industry line out behind him, singing along.
We’re still singing it, long after the band and Christy and all the other performers have left the stage. How can I protect you in this crazy world? And I cry again because none of us can really protect each other in this crazy world. All we can do is support each other and give joyous thanks for the parts we all play in it. And hope and pray that we all get to play them until we’re old and spent and finally ready for the curtain to fall.