The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - THE TAKE -



But­ton Fac­tory Dublin 7.30pm ¤15 but­ton­fac­ Any­one in­ter­ested in con­tem­po­rary spo­ken-word will know that Stephen James Smith is one of the lead­ing lights of Ire­land’s con­tri­bu­tion to the form. Like Colm Kee­gan and John Cum­mins, Smith en­hanced its per­cep­tion by de­liv­er­ing work that has both ra­tio­nal­ity and strength. This head­line show is the fi­nal date of Smith’s na­tion­wide tour in sup­port of his su­perb de­but col­lec­tion of po­etry, Fear Not, copies of which will be on sale at the venue. TCL


TheGrandSo­cial,Dublin¤12.50 thegrandso­ With her lat­est sin­gle Again draw­ing com­par­isons to Dua Lipa, it’s un­fair to con­tain Gal­way singer Laoise to just a com­par­i­son. As one of Ire­land’s up-and-com­ing ladies of pop, she’s a rare breed. A pop lover and a pop pur­veyor, her tunes are in­fec­tious, su­per-slick and there’s no rea­son why they shouldn’t be all over the ra­dio. This is her sec­ond­last gig of the year, with the last sched­uled in Gal­way’s Róisín Dubh on De­cem­ber 14th. LB


3Are­naDublin6.30pm¤49.50 tick­et­mas­ It is quite the 1980s nos­tal­gia-fest at 3Arena tonight, with hits-filled shows from two of the era’s best-known acts. From Cul­ture Club (the name now em­phat­i­cally pre­ceded by lead singer Ge­orge O’Dowd) we have eight Top 10 UK hits from 1982-1986. From spe­cial guest act Tom Bai­ley (per­form­ing un­der the ti­tle of Thomp­son Twins’ Tom Bai­ley), we have eight Top 20 UK hits from 1982-1985. Enough to ap­pease the avid fans, for sure, but ca­sual at­ten­dees be­ware. TCL


Acade­myDublin7p­m¤17.50 tick­et­mas­ Tak­ing their name from the Rus­sian for ‘girl’, Den­ver, Colorado’s DeVotchKa first per­formed as the tour­ing band with model and bur­lesque en­ter­tainer Dita Von Teese, but it was via the 2006 indie film Lit­tle Miss Sun­shine (for which the band com­posed the film score), that a greater part of the world be­came aware of them. From then to now, the band’s mu­sic has evolved, im­pacted surely by front­man Nick Urata’s film com­po­si­tion work for the likes of Crazy Stupid Love and

Padding­ton. The band will be pro­mot­ing their most re­cent al­bum,

The Night Falls For­ever. TCL


Na­tional Con­cert Hall Dublin 8pm ¤30/¤ Pi­o­neers, ad­ven­tur­ers and fol­low­ers of non-fash­ion such as Gavin Bryars are in­creas­ingly rare these days. The York­shire­man is widely re­garded as one of the most im­por­tant post-min­i­mal­ist com­posers, and al­though he may be best known for two works (The Sink­ing of the Ti­tanic, and Je­sus’ Blood Never Failed me Yet – both com­posed in the early 1970s), he has con­tin­ued to evade cat­e­gori­sa­tion. This rare show will be pre­ceded by a pub­lic in­ter­view with Bryars with this writer. Full de­tails on the Na­tional Con­cert Hall web­site. TCL


3Are­naDublin6.30pm¤40.40 tick­et­mas­ Lon­doner Jess Glynne knows the ropes in­side and out­side the ring. Her mother once worked in the mu­sic in­dus­try as an A&R spot­ter, while Glynne worked for a mu­sic man­age­ment com­pany, where she built up her con­tacts list be­fore em­bark­ing on a mu­sic-re­lated course. It was dur­ing her time here (through­out 2010) that Glynne met fu­ture song­writ­ing col­lab­o­ra­tors, and sub­se­quently signed a pub­lish­ing and record deal. Since then, she has re­leased two al­bums (2015’s de­but, I Cry When I Laugh, and this year’s Al­ways in Be­tween), each of which dis­plays her strengths as a pop/R&B artist. TCL


TheGrandSo­cial,Dublin¤20 thegrandso­ North­ern Ir­ish singer-song­writer SOAK scooped up the Choice Mu­sic Prize for her 2015 al­bum Be­fore We For­got How To Dream, re­leased when she was just 19, and she’s now kick­ing off the next part of her ca­reer. An in­cred­i­bly sen­si­tive and in­sight­ful song­writer – as heard on

her new sin­gle Every­body Loves You, a song about the lengths we go to pro­tect our­selves – it’s great to have SOAK back. LB



Na­tional Con­cert Hall Dublin 8pm ¤37.50/¤;al­soThurs­day same venue. Both shows sold out Sub­ti­tled ‘Acous­tic-ish with Dowry Strings’, this is yet an­other ex­am­ple of how BellX1 suc­cess­fully man­age to come up with dif­fer­ent ways to present their mu­sic with­out alert­ing the lis­tener to over-fa­mil­iar­ity. Across these two sold-out shows, the band will flick through their back cat­a­logue with the added bonus of a string quar­tet guided by com­poser and ar­ranger Éna Bren­nan (aka Dowry). Don’t ex­pect any­thing less than a buck­et­ful of beau­ti­ful, is our pre­dic­tion. TCL


Mon­roe’s, Gal­way ¤25 mon­

You’d be for­given for think­ing that Wheatus dis­ap­peared after the mas­sive suc­cess of their 2000 sin­gle

Teenage Dirt­bag and their 2001 cover of Era­sure’s A Lit­tle Re­spect, but the New York band kept on chug­ging along, re­leas­ing al­bums such as the not-so-cryp­ti­cally ti­tled

Suck Fony in 2005 and Pop, Songs & Death in 2012, and putting out their new sin­gle Lul­laby last June. I guess a Teenage Dirt­bag’s dream is even harder to beat. LB


The Academy, Dublin ¤20 tick­et­mas­

2018 has been one hell of a year for R&B singer Ma­bel. The daugh­ter of Neneh Cherry and Mas­sive At­tack pro­ducer Cameron McVey, she’s been hop­ping up and down the charts, col­lab­o­rat­ing with Not3s, Raye, Jax Jones and St­ef­flon Don. This gig is a step-up from her last head­lin­ing visit to Dublin, where she played the smaller stage in The Academy’s Green Room. With an ex­tended ver­sion of her Ivy to Roses mix­tape freshly re­leased, hope­fully an al­bum isn’t far away. LB


TheLime­lightBelfa­st8pm£17.50 lime­light­; also Thurs­day, Olympia Theatre, Dublin 8pm ¤22.90 tick­et­mas­ The past two years have seen Man­ches­ter’s Blos­soms rise out of rel­a­tive ob­scu­rity to be­ing on the BBC Sound of 2016 list and then re­ceiv­ing a nom­i­na­tion for their self-ti­tled de­but al­bum on the 2017 Mer­cury Mu­sic Prize list. Sim­i­lar praise has been heaped onto their se­cond al­bum, this year’s Cool like

You, which takes the band’s indie pop/psych mu­sic up a notch or two. Spe­cial guest act is Derry band Touts, who we rec­om­mend specif­i­cally for fans of no-holds-barred punk rock circa 1977. TCL



3Are­naDublin6.30pm¤67 tick­et­mas­

Twenty years after the re­lease of Lau­ryn Hill’s de­but (and, to date, only stu­dio) al­bum, The Mise­d­u­ca­tion of Lau­ryn Hill, the Amer­i­can singer makes her solo de­but in Ire­land, bring­ing that justly ac­claimed neo-soul al­bum with her (and, ac­cord­ing to ad­vance re­ports, some cov­ers, and a song or two by Fugees, her for­mer group). The tour has not been with­out con­tro­versy, how­ever, with late start­ing times caus­ing au­di­ence up­sets at nu­mer­ous venues. What­ever about tim­ing is­sues, this will surely be the first op­por­tu­nity for Ir­ish fans to hear The Mise­d­u­ca­tion of Lau­ryn Hill

played in its en­tirety (al­though whether in strict or­der and in ar­range­ments you will recog­nis­able is open to de­bate – an­other sore point with nu­mer­ous au­di­ences). TCL


RDS Main Hall, Dublin ¤54.50 tick­et­mas­

Chris­tine and the Queens’s lat­est tour is re­ported to be a full-blown art pop show, in­volv­ing in­tense chore­og­ra­phy that places her on the same pedestal as Janet Jack­son. French singer Héloïse Letissier came back with a new look, a new sound and a short­ened name on her last al­bum

Chris, which toys with stereo­types and ex­pec­ta­tions of gen­der and sex­u­al­ity, and her live show is a deeply thought-out ex­ten­sion of that ex­plo­ration. LB


Var­i­ousv­enues/times,Din­gle,CoKerry oth­er­

Seven­teen years a-grow­ing, and Other Voices re­mains a high­light in the year’s pop-cul­ture cal­en­dar. As usual, there’s so much go­ing on that you won’t be able to do/see every­thing, but no doubt you’ll try to pack in as much as pos­si­ble. What’s on of­fer in­cludes the St James’ Church shows (tonight and to­mor­row, Satur­day De­cem­ber 1, in­clud­ing Court­ney Marie An­drews, Ma­halia, Nahkane, Wheny­oung), the Hen­nessy Mu­sic Trail (in­clud­ing many of the acts you’ll hear much more of in 2019), the IMRO Other Room (in­clud­ing Kitt Philippa Mango & Math­man, and Ko­jaque), Mu­sic Trail West, and the Ire­land’s Edge con­fer­ence. And don’t for­get Ban­ter, After Dark and Wax­ing Lyri­cal. Busy busi­ness as usual, then? TCL


The Olympia Theatre, Dublin ¤50.65 tick­et­mas­

Adore De­lano, Bianca Del Rio, Court­ney Act and Dari­enne Lake are the top four queens from sea­son six of Ru­Paul’s Drag Race and they also make up the A, B, C and D of the ABCD Tour. The all-singing, all-danc­ing and all lip-sync­ing dames will pull out all the stops to en­ter­tain you, through serv­ing tea, shade tears, laugh­ter and song. VIP meet & greet tick­ets from ¤97. LB



First Fruits Arts Cen­tre, Water­grasshill, CoCork7.30pm¤20 first­fruit­sart­cen­ Long­time com­padres from their days with The Bothy Band, bouzouki player, gui­tarist and re­nais­sance man of Ir­ish tra­di­tional mu­sic Dónal Lunny joins Dublin fid­dle player Paddy Glackin sad­dle up for an evening of tunes in this in­ti­mate com­mu­nity venue.


Ir­ish Tra­di­tional Mu­sic Archive, Mer­rion Square,Dublin1p­mAdm­free Third and fi­nal broad­cast by NEAR FM as part of Ex­plore Your Archive 2018 ini­tia­tive. This earlyafter­noon pro­gramme fo­cuses on the PW Joyce Col­lec­tion, bring­ing to­gether con­ver­sa­tion, song and mu­sic to show how the work of a 19th-cen­tury col­lec­tor con­tin­ues to shape the prac­tices of mu­si­cians in the 21st cen­tury. Fea­tur­ing fid­dle play­ers, Liam O’Con­nor and Máire O’Ke­effe and Ni­cholas Carolan, for­mer di­rec­tor of the ITMA.


LeapCas­tle,CoOf­faly9pm¤20 087-2238040 Arty pre­pares for the im­mi­nent launch of his much-an­tic­i­pated solo al­bum Botera, with this fi­nal night in his short tour, in the com­pany of his wife and fid­dle player Nollaig Casey. Vis­it­ing jazz tunes he’s loved all his life, tonight should re­veal yet an­other side to this re­mark­able Re­nais­sance man whose gui­tar ac­com­pa­ni­ment is much sought after by tra­di­tional and folk mu­si­cians alike. A vet­eran of the show­band scene, McG­lynn was a stal­wart of Van Mor­ri­son’s band for some time: renowned for his low key, self-ef­fac­ing style. Sup­port from Jack Kee­shan.


StJohn’sTheatre,Lis­towel,CoKerry 8pm ¤15 stjohn­sthe­atrelis­ Fe­ro­cious power and en­ergy are what char­ac­terise this ex­cep­tional singer and bouzouki player. He knocked the socks off the au­di­ence at the re­cent in­au­gu­ral RTÉ Ra­dio 1 Folk Awards with his pow­er­ful and charis­matic per­for­mance. A Dubliner through and through, this is a fine op­por­tu­nity for north Kerry lo­cals to make his ac­quain­tance in an in­ti­mate venue.


Pur­tyKitchen,DunLaoghai­re9.30pm ¤20pur­tyk­ Fresh from his re­cent Life­time Achieve­ment Award at the RTÉ Ra­dio 1 Folk Awards, Andy con­tin­ues to forge the trou­ba­dour’s path with an au­then­tic­ity and verve that is un­par­al­leled in the world of folk mu­sic. His song book is seem­ingly lim­it­less, his melody lines dis­tinctly

his own, and his re­mark­able sense of rhythm un­der­scores his in­trigu­ing choice of Eastern Euro­pean and Ir­ish tunes alike.



Ar thurs, Dublin ,5 pm ¤15/¤10 arthur­ Czech-born gui­tarist Pe­ter Mochas been stag­ing his tribute to Emily Rem­ler an­nu­ally since 2015, ini­tially with fu­sion leg­end Larry Co­ryell in at­ten­dance. Since Co­ryell’s pass­ing in 2017, Mochas been adding a spe­cial guest to his reg­u­lar band, and this year it’s Bos­ton alto sax­o­phon­ist Grace Kelly. An en­er­getic, ex­tro­vert per­former with a sound and a taste for drama rem­i­nis­cent of Kenny Gar­rett, the 26-year-old won the “ris­ing star alto sax­o­phone” award in Down­beat last year and has played with Wyn­ton Marsalis and Lee Konitz. Moc’s group also fea­tures Klara Janu on vi­o­lin, An­drew Csibi on bass and Kevin Brady on drums.


Work man’ s Club, Dublin 8 pm ¤10 face­­jaz­zcoop The or­gan-gui­tar-drums trio is one of the most en­dur­ing com­bi­na­tions in jazz – from the pi­o­neer­ing groups of Jimmy Smith and Grant Green to the pow­er­ful trios of Larry Young and John McLaugh­lin – but it takes a spe­cial kind of or­gan­ist to cover the dual role of bassist and key­boardist. Ris­ing Dublin key­boardist Dar­ragh Hen­nessy is one of the few, and he is joined here by Miles Gra­ham band gui­tarist Scott Kohlmann and Zaska drum­mer Dy­lan Lynch in the lat­est in­stal­ment of the ex­cel­lent Dublin Jazz Co-Op se­ries.


Su­gar Club, Dublin 8pm ¤17.50 the­sug­ar­ US west-coast sax­o­phon­ist Idris Ack­amoor stud­ied with leg­endary free pi­anist Ce­cil Tay­lor in the 1970s and was part of a gen­er­a­tion of jazz mu­si­cians that drew in­spi­ra­tion from both ends of the jazz spec­trum, com­bin­ing the feral an­ar­chy of Tay­lor and Sun Ra with the taut grooves of Sly Stone and Fela Kuti. Five decades later, Ack­amoor is still go­ing strong and has just re­leased a new record­ing, An An­gel Fell , on Strut Records. Hips will shake, heads will nod, beards will be ap­pre­cia­tively stroked.


Billy By rn e’ s,Kil kenny ,9 pm Adm free face­­fases­sion­skilkenny The trio of gui­tarist Mike Nielsen, bassist Ro­nan Guil­foyle and drum­mer Conor Guil­foyle blazed a trail for a whole new ap­proach to the jazz reper­toire back in the 1990s, record­ing an al­bum of “f*cked-up” stan­dards in a va­ri­ety of com­plex time sig­na­tures that has sold un­ex­pect­edly and steadily ever since. The three mem­bers have all moved on to big­ger things, par­tic­u­larly in the field of ed­u­ca­tion, but here’s a rare chance to hear one of the most in­flu­en­tial Ir­ish jazz groups of the past three decades re­cap­ture the in­trepid spirit that has won them ad­mir­ers amongst other jazz mu­si­cians right around the world.


Cough­lans, Cork, 9pm ¤15 cough­ Gemma Su­grue didn’t mess about when it came to se­lect­ing mu­si­cians for her de­but al­bum. The Cork vo­cal­ist started sit­ting in with gui­tarist Julien Colarossi’s group at Dublin’s In­ter­na­tional Bar in Dublin last year and from those seeds has sprung a stu­dio al­bum, In My Na­ture, with Colarossi’s Metheny-es­que play­ing ac­com­pa­nied by an a-team rhythm sec­tion of pi­anist Johnny Tay­lor, bassist Barry Dono­hue and drum­mer Do­minic Mullen.


Ar thurs, Dublin ,9.30 pm ¤10 arthur­ Op­por­tu­ni­ties to hear Myles Dren­nan play the pi­ano are not as plen­ti­ful as they should be, so the chance to hear the ex­trav­a­gantly tal­ented pi­anist play­ing stan­dards in the com­pany of bassist Neil Ó Lo­clainn and drum­mer Sean Car­pio – Louis Ste­wart’s last rhythm sec­tion – re­ally should not be missed.



Bord Gáis En­ergy Theatre, Dublin 7.30pm ¤15, ¤36, ¤51, ¤66, ¤86 bor­dgaisen­er­gythe­;al­soTues, Thurs,Sat,Dec1st

Ir­ish Na­tional Opera is go­ing for the big time, at least as far as scale is con­cerned. The com­pany, which pre­sented its first pro­duc­tion–of Thomas Adès’s cham­ber opera

Pow­der Her Face – last Fe­bru­ary, is of­fer­ing Verdi’s Aida at Dublin’s Bord Gáis En­ergy Theatre as its last of­fer­ing of 2018. Aida, with a cho­rus of 60, off­stage bands, and an ex­panded RTÉ Con­cert Orches­tra in the pit, will draw to­gether a force of 140 per­form­ers.

Dublin so­prano Orla Boy­lan sings the ti­tle role, with Welsh tenor Gwyn Hughes Jones as her lover Radamès and mezzo so­prano Imelda Drumm as her ri­val, Am­neris. Michael Barker Caven di­rects, the de­signs are by Joe Vanek, and INO’s artis­tic di­rec­tor, Fer­gus Sheil, con­ducts. The com­pany has just an­nounced its of­fer­ings for the first six months of 2019, which run to a tour of Gluck’s

Or­feo ed Euridice with Sharon Carty as Or­feo, Puc­cini’s Madama But­ter­fly with Ce­line Byrne in the ti­tle role, Mozart’s The Magic Flute

with some dou­ble cast­ing that in­cludes Anna Devin and Jen­nifer Davis as Pam­ina, Nick Pritchard and Tyler Nel­son as Tamino, and Kim Shee­han and Au­drey Luna as the Queen of the Night. Don­nacha Den­nehy and Enda Walsh’s The Se­cond Vi­o­lin­ist goes to Am­s­ter­dam and there’s also This Hos­tel Life, Evan­gelia Ri­gaki and Me­latu Uche Oko­rie’s new in­stal­la­tion opera ex­plor­ing the plight of mi­grant women in Ir­ish di­rect pro­vi­sion cen­tres.


NCH,Dublin8pm¤20-¤ He just can’t es­cape them. Gavin Bryars’s big­gest hits, the at­mo­spheric The Sink­ing of the Ti­tanic and the haunt­ing Je­sus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet, go with him wher­ever he goes. They’re with him for his 75th birth­day con­cert at the Na­tional Con­cert Hall, along with a clutch of later works, Winestead, The North Shore and The Flower of Friend­ship. Un­like Beethoven – who came to hate his Septet, Op. 20, be­cause of the way its pop­u­lar­ity kept later and bet­ter works in the shad­ows – Bryars seems com­fort­able that two of his

early works have, in the pop­u­lar imag­i­na­tion, eclipsed every­thing else he has writ­ten since. Of course, he does get to play in them (he’s a dou­ble bassist as well as a com­poser), so he earns on the dou­ble ev­ery time he’s in­volved in them with his Gavin Bryars Ensem­ble, as in his birth­day ap­pear­ance in Dublin.



Roy­alCol­le­ge­ofPhysi­cians,Kil­dare Street,Dublin8pm¤30/¤25 mu­sic­net­;al­soFri,Wex­ford; Sat, Sligo Tre Voci is the name Mu­sic Net­work has given to the three-con­cert tour by the juicy trio of Claire Booth (so­prano), Natalie Clein (cello) and Julius Drake (pi­ano), all best-known in Ire­land as vis­i­tors to the West Cork Cham­ber Mu­sic Fes­ti­val, al­though Clein’s most re­cent Ir­ish ap­pear­ance was at the West­port Cham­ber Mu­sic Fes­ti­val. Their Mu­sic Net­work pro­gramme uses works by Kodály, Bach, Cage, Tavener, Brahms, Deb­o­rah Pritchard, Janacek and Schu­bert to ex­plore “themes of na­ture, sep­a­rated lovers, grief and spir­i­tu­al­ity”.



Brian Fay. Oon­agh Young Gallery, 1 James Joyce St, Dublin Un­til De­cem­ber 22nd oon­aghy­ Tak­ing his ti­tle from Mary Shel­ley’s in­tro­duc­tion to her 1831 edi­tion of Franken­stein, in his new se­ries of draw­ings Brain Fay con­sid­ers how in­ter­ven­tions, from con­ser­va­tion to era­sure to adap­ta­tion, have re­made or changed works by Cimabue, Shel­ley and Willem de Koon­ing.


Pat Har­ris. Tay­lor Gal­leries, 16 Kil­dare St, Dublin Un­til De­cem­ber 8 th tay­lor­gal­ Pat Har­ris’s new paint­ings, made in his stu­dio on the north-Mayo coast, at Car­rowteige and Kil­gal­li­gan, look to the coast­line land­scape of rock, sea and light, to­gether with stud­ies of small flow­ers in the stu­dio. In an ac­com­pa­ny­ing pub­li­ca­tion, he views them as deal­ing with space, time and light.


Six artists. Craw­ford Art Gallery, Em­met Place, Cork Un­til Fe­bru­ary 17 craw­for­dart­ Cu­ra­tor Anne Bod­daert brings to­gether work by six Cork-based artists whose di­verse work – “from an­cient pro­cesses to new (ma­chine) tech­nolo­gies” – shares a com­mit­ment to ex­cel­lence in crafts­man­ship. They are Nuala O’Dono­van, Eoin Turner, Alex Pen­tek, Mary Palmer & Anne Kiely, and Joseph Walsh. It’s a for­mi­da­ble line-up of ex­cep­tional tal­ents.


Bar­bara Kneze vic. An on­line sculp­tural show at Ber­lin Op­ti­cians Gallery, Dublin.


Michelle Obama’s Be­com­ing nar­rates the re­mark­able rise of its author from shoe­box apart­ment on Chicago’s south side through Ivy League un­der­grad and grad school to white-shoe law firm and her sub­se­quent col­li­sion with “an Afro-Kansan-In­done­sian-Hawai­ian-Chicagoan” with a “weird name and quixotic smile”. Michelle is spurred by Barack’s ex­am­ple to ex­pand her hori­zons beyond per­sonal up­ward mo­bil­ity: “It was one thing to get your­self out of a stuck place… an­other thing en­tirely to try to get the place it­self un­stuck.”. For his part, Obama is drawn to Michelle’s ground­ed­ness as a daugh­ter of the South Side raised in a sta­ble fam­ily, rooted in Chicago’s AfricanAme­r­i­can com­mu­nity.

Be­com­ing’s prose is at times ar­rest­ingly good. But – a func­tion per­haps of her de­lim­ited role as First Lady – it drags dur­ing the White House years. Michelle’s dis­dain for Trump has been widely re­ported; she blames him for im­per­illing her fam­ily. Pres­i­dents and First Ladies, past and present, have formed a so­dal­ity tran­scend­ing party af­fil­i­a­tion. Trump’s snip­ing broke the chain. And yet the Repub­lic beats on. “A hand goes on a Bible; an oath gets re­peated,” she writes. “One pres­i­dent’s fur­ni­ture gets car­ried out while an­other’s comes in. Clos­ets are emp­tied and re­filled. Just like that, there are new heads on new pil­lows new tem­per­a­ments, new dreams.”


There is a genre-wide ex­pec­ta­tion that a first lady’s mem­oir will never be any­thing but op­ti­mistic, and here, Obama sticks to the script, ac­knowl­edg­ing that racism ex­ists, but rarely tak­ing in­di­vid­u­als or in­sti­tu­tions for task as be­ing racist. Even her harsh­est words, for Don­ald Trump, are hedged, call­ing his birther cam­paign “crazy and mean-spir­ited, of course, its un­der­ly­ing big­otry and xeno­pho­bia hardly con­cealed.” When de­scrib­ing the ef­fects of his ad­min­is­tra­tion, she speaks diplo­mat­i­cally and in eu­phemisms, soft­en­ing her oth­er­wise blunt tone by writ­ing sim­ply that his poli­cies have “caused many Amer­i­cans to doubt them­selves and to doubt and fear one an­other” and have “left vul­ner­a­ble mem­bers of our so­ci­ety ex­posed and de­hu­man­ized.” In­stead, she stresses, as Barack did in his cam­paign, the im­por­tance of unity, com­pas­sion, and work­ing to­gether, of “heal­ing our coun­try’s di­vi­sions” by ap­peal­ing to our greater hu­man­ity. Again and again, she talks about the need for “pos­i­tiv­ity.”

But she of­fers lit­tle to con­tend with the fact that the elec­tion of Trump is a re­buke to the hope and pos­i­tiv­ity of the Obama pres­i­dency, a cam­paign pred­i­cated on the ba­sis of racism. Per­haps her mes­sage is less un­bri­dled op­ti­mism, then, and more of a recog­ni­tion of the strug­gle to move the coun­try for­ward that has al­ways fallen to marginalis­ed peo­ple.


When Michelle Robin­son first heard her fel­low lawyers swoon­ing over a new sum­mer as­so­ciate named Barack Hus­sein Obama, she was du­bi­ous. Other than reg­is­ter­ing his “rich, even sexy bari­tone” on the phone, she wasn’t all that im­pressed. The “top­pling blast of lust, grat­i­tude, ful­fil­ment, won­der” would come later. But she would al­ways find it hard to ad­just to his tar­di­ness, his con­stant be­lief that things would sim­ply work them­selves out, and the way his am­bi­tions of­ten dic­tated the course of their lives.

But it’s the mo­ments when Obama tries to make sense of what she’s see­ing now, in the coun­try, that are among the most mov­ing – if only be­cause she’s so clearly strug­gling to rec­on­cile the cleareyed re­al­ism of her up­bring­ing, brought about by ne­ces­sity, with the glam­orous, pre­vi­ously un­think­able life she has to­day.

Obama seems to be a mea­sured, me­thod­i­cal cen­trist at heart. But hers isn’t a wan faith. Her prag­ma­tism is tougher than that, even if it will come across as es­pe­cially frus­trat­ing to those who be­lieve that cen­trism and ci­vil­ity are no longer enough. As she writes in Be­com­ing, she long ago learned to rec­og­nize the “uni­ver­sal chal­lenge of squar­ing who you are with where you come from and where you want to go”.


Obama spends reams of text de­scrib­ing how de­voted she is to her chil­dren – and how knowl­edge­able she is about pol­icy, whether that is pub­lic health or child­hood ed­u­ca­tion. But she is still strik­ingly dif­fi­dent about her ac­com­plish­ments, de­scrib­ing her­self in the epi­logue as an “or­di­nary per­son who found her­self on an ex­traor­di­nary jour­ney.”

To­ward the end of the book, this seem­ing dou­ble­s­peak be­comes frus­trat­ing, but in a way re­lat­able. Obama is a re­sis­tant sym­bol, hav­ing never sought out pub­lic life her­self, but she was also can­nily manag­ing her pub­lic ap­pear­ance years be­fore she be­came First Lady, in that un­con­scious, ev­ery­day way that mi­nor­ity women are es­pe­cially called to do. Some­times Obama wants to have her South Side ground­ed­ness and her G20 poise at the same time, and it doesn’t quite work that way. We, the read­ers, have seen her work her magic; we have as­sessed her power al­ready, or we would not be read­ing this book.

But per­haps this is the crux of Michelle Obama’s ap­peal – this pose of nor­malcy, amidst a life that is not at all nor­mal. Barack is the dreamer, the ide­al­ist, the leader. Michelle-en­tranced, over­whelmed, con­cerned for her fam­ily’s safety, and find­ing com­fort in a McDon­ald’s burger and a Tar­get run is more like the rest of us.

Jess Glynne 3Arena Dublin, Tues­day.

Lau­ryn Hill, 3Arena Dublin, Fri­day

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