Frighteningly, four years have elapsed since W&H last descended to the depths of Dublin’s DC Club for a soiree with My Darling Clementine, but it seems little has changed. This brilliant, basement-level, members-only social club cum venue still looks like a terraced house from the outside and it remains one of the best kept secrets on the circuit. As W&H found out en route, even the city’s old skool cabbies are only vaguely aware of its existence.
That such maverick enterprises are still alive and kicking offers a glimmer of hope in these precarious times, but it’s equally heart-warming to discover that Andy White not only endures, but is currently releasing some of the best music of his 35-year career.
The charismatic Belfast singer-songwriter arrived in Dublin at the end of a meandering tour of the UK and Ireland which recently found him playing a homecoming show at Belfast’s American Bar. He was in town in support of two contemporaneous releases: a tempting, white vinyl edition of his acclaimed 1986 debut ‘Rave On Andy White’ – and his new album, ‘The Guilty And The Innocent’, which is slated for official release in January 2019.
Both mandatory releases, the two records are sister acts of a sort in that they’re passionate, polemically-charged affairs and both feel especially prescient in these increasingly precarious times. Inevitably, their contents feature significantly in tonight’s set-list with White – tonight looking drop dead cool in black jacket, black jeans and black polka dot shirt – strapping on his battered 12-string and immediately hammering out hard-edged, Billy Bragg-esque versions of ‘Religious Persuasion’ and his new album’s lapel-grabbing opening cut ‘This Is Not A Television Show’.
He delved deeper into the new album with ‘Very Fine People’, a song which takes its title from Donald Trump’s much-reported speech after the right-wing rally in Charlottesville Virginia, promoting the fake news that there were “very fine people on both sides”. It’s an iron fist of a lyric, but typically, it’s couched in a velvet glove of a melody and it’s topped off with one of White’s catchiest choruses yet.
After an initial solo salvo, he was joined by his son and drummer Sebastian, who added a whole new dimension as they ventured off into White’s wider back catalogue for gems such as the laconic ‘If You Want It’, the playful ‘Italian Girls On Mopeds’ and a neat ‘Sideways No Shadow’ which ingeniously segued into a reworked version of the inevitable ‘Looking For James Joyce’s Grave’.
Elsewhere, they rocked out in style during ‘Waiting For The 39’ which took an evocative tour through the singer’s native Northern Irish landscape atop a low-riding, Duane Eddy-esque riff and lobbed in an updated lyric with references to Mrs. May’s much-derided Brexit deal. After that, they were into the home strait for an impassioned ‘Unheard’, a celebratory version of ‘Rave On’s ‘Vision Of You’ and a heartstring-tugging ‘Travelling Circus’.
Few would have complained if they’d left it there, but there was still time for a generous, treat-filled encore which kicked off with the lengthy, Dylan-esque ‘The Guilty & The Innocent’, before Hothouse Flowers star Liam O’Maonlai strolled onstage to add tin whistle and backing vocals to a fiery ‘Reality Row’ and ‘Speechless’ provided a vivid denouement provoking a richly-deserved standing ovation.