Issue 5 7/98

FolkWorld Live Review

Guinness Fleadh; Finsbury Park, London

6th June 1998

By Kathy Tan

Many of the big names were packed into this year's Guinness Fleadh at Finsbury Park, which was a successful event, given the gorgeous, sunny weather and (almost!) free flow of Guinness from the beer tents.

Drawing by Annegret HaenselThere were two stages, the Time Out stage and the main stage. The latter saw the likes of Paul Brady, Mike Scott, Billy Bragg, Shane MacGowan and the Popes, The Corrs, and finally, Brit-pop superstars, James. The Time Out stage created a more cosy atmosphere with soulful American folk-crooner Ron Sexsmith, Altan, John Martyn, Eddi Reader, World Party, Dr. John, and (surprise!) Sinead O' Connor.

With a forty-five minute segment each, the artists played their set to an enthusiastic crowd, complete with waving Irish flags, before toddling off backstage and leaving the crowd to fight their way back into the Guinness tents for refills and munchies. Highlights of the day included an acoustc set with Paul Brady, and a Waterboys semi-reunion with Mike Scott playing with old band members on guitars and bass. Billy Bragg did a Woody Guthrie set, tying in with some material he had recorded recently, which included the 'Trade Union Song'. "It would not be a Billy Bragg show without a song about trade unions," he enthused to the crowd, "so here's one for you."
Shane MacGowan and the Popes were on about dusk, which is probably an appropriate time for the man who has raised more comments about his teeth and drinking habits than any other legendary rock star. Yes, Mr. Paddy Rolling Stone himself walked onstage with a sardonic grin and gin-wafting charisma, and then launched into a foot-stomping 'If I Should Fall from Grace with God'. Something distinctly ironic about the whole thing, maybe? All the old favourites from the days of the Pogues were played, including 'Dirty Old Town' and 'Streams of Whiskey'.

The Corrs were next on the main stage, and opened a set which included hits like 'Runaway' and 'I Never Really Loved You Anyway', taken from their recent chart-topping album, 'Talk on Corners'. After they left the stage, it was time to head down to the Time Out stage for a glimpse of Sinead O'Connor, which meant an inevitable missing out on James.
The decision was not regretted though, as Sinead O' Connor put on a show which the audience (including myself) lapped up greedily. Sporting her characteristic shaved head, O'Connor flirted with the audience as her powerful vocals soared heavenward on tracks like 'Fire on Babylon'. As the crowd joined in passionately on 'Nothing Compares to You', it was not difficult to see why this lady has captured so many hearts worldwide. Definitely a blissful way to end a day's intoxicating immersion in with Irish/ Celtic music, which left me counting the days till the next Guinness Fleadh in the big year, 1999.

Drawings by Annegret Haensel; more infos on the artist in the editorial.

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