FIONA LOONEY

KITCHEN SINK DRAMA

The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - CONTENTS - Don’t miss Fiona Looney’s bril­liant col­umn, with her unique take on mod­ern Ire­land, only in the Ir­ish Daily Mail ev­ery Wed­nes­day.

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.

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