This last weekend did, of course, start with Friday’s St. Patrick’s Day and I was lucky enough to spend it watching one of my favourite Irish artists perform.
I have written about the work of Pete Gardiner on many occasions and even hosted him in a house gig so I must confess a certain bias when it comes to his work. I honestly feel he is one of the best lyricists I have written about and have often likened his lyrics to poetry.
On Friday he was playing The Guinea, a venue in Tunbridge Wells, Kent that is starting to become a go to musical venue and he really didn’t disappoint. Playing a mix of traditional Irish songs alongside covers of Springsteen, Dylan and The Cranberries to name just a few, he also graced the evening with some of his original music, all of which had the packed venue dancing with unbridled enthusiasm and appreciation.
Recent release, ‘Bourbon and The Truth’ sat comfortably amongst the classics of Americana and Indie music that Pete brought to the venue. It was a joy to see him play to such an appreciative audience and was to become an interesting subtext to the rest of the weekend of music.
Roll forward a couple of days and I found myself at one of the most famous venues in the world watching an artist live for the first time who also had the sell out audience dancing in the aisles with his music of the Emerald Isle.
Nathan Carter is undoubtedly one of the most successful Irish recording artists at the moment and was responsible for the most successful version in the UK and Ireland of the classic Country song ‘Wagon Wheel’, a song written by Ketch Secor of The Old Crow Medicine Show, a band I was lucky enough to see play The C2C Festival just a week ago, around a chorus originally written by Bob Dylan back in the seventies during The Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid sessions in 1973.
The song was also brilliantly covered by Darius Rucker just a year after Nathan’s version. The UK and Ireland chart performance of Nathan’s version makes it the most successful version on this side of the Atlantic although the near 554 million streams of the Darius version and the 140 million for OCMS dwarfs the 9.4 million of Nathan’s on Spotify; probably more of a comment on how different audiences consume music than anything else and a surefire indication of Nathan’s traditional fan base. Nathan is widely considered a pioneer of Country and Irish music due to the massive popularity of the recording.
On Sunday, Nathan brought his incredible show to The London Palladium and had the sell out crowd of all ages from 7 to 70 something dancing and singing along to his mix of traditional Irish songs, pop and country music covers and original music. His musical prowess was undoubted as he effortlessly moved from guitar to piano to accordion, and the high quality of his band showed exactly why seeing him live is a must.
Originally born in Liverpool to parents from Northern Ireland, Nathan has been building his huge fanbase ever since the release of his debut album ‘Starting Out’ in 2007. Since then, he has released a further 12 studio albums and six live albums as at the end of last year. He has been playing accordion since he was 4 and won the All Ireland Title for Traditional Singing at the age of 10. After moving to Ireland at the age of 18, he has recorded some wonderful Irish music as well as writing beautiful tracks like ‘On the Boat to Liverpool’ and ‘Temple Bar’, both of which were sung to an adoring crowd at The Palladium.
His performance at The Palladium included many covers of Country music from Joe Nichols’ ‘Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off’, Kenny Rogers’ classics ‘The Gambler’ and ‘Islands in the Stream’, Randy Travis’s ‘Forever and Ever Amen’ and a medley of Glen Campbell songs which I really enjoyed having seen Glen play The International Festival of Country Music back in 1984 with my Father.
However, Nathan didn’t restrict himself to Country as he dipped into ABBA, Walk The Moon and The Dubliners. There seemed nothing this artist could not sing and his class and enthusiasm were rewarded by an audience that became more and more animated as the evening progressed until the point where there was barely anyone seated. It’s hard to believe that Nathan managed to fit so much music into his 100 minute set and he was brilliantly supported by CEOL and Claudia Buckley who both returned to the stage to duet with him.
It occurred to me as I spent the weekend watching two singers with a background in Northern Ireland, Pete Gardiner from Newtownards and Nathan’s parents being from there, that it would be wonderful to see what they could conjure together. Pete’s lyricism and Nathan’s passion for Country and Irish music could create something wonderful; indeed to hear them both sing the wonderful music of Ireland over such a special weekend will make this an Irish weekend I will never forget but also a reminder of how two such talented men’s careers can move in different directions and yet still give such joy.