There was one vinyl above others which rested nearly permanently on my turntable in the early 80s and that was ‘Light in The Western Sky’. I loved the freshness and the energy and the post-Planxty inventiveness – they were my favourite band. Then I saw them live during the Guinness World Tour (of 1984 I think) in Perth, Western Australia and I remember them as being standouts on a bill that included Mary Black and Christy Moore.
Fast forward now to Treacy’s West County Hotel in Ennis in March 2015 and I am sitting in a crowded room hearing those same songs and tunes being belted out and sounding just as fresh thirty plus years later. It is the Stocktons Wing Reunion tour and they have returned to Ennis where it all began for them in 1977. The locals are excited to have them back and they did not disappoint. The concert focussed around that seminal album so we heard Walk Away and the Belltable (which Maurice informed us was written upstairs in Brogans) and the Golden Stud as well as other hits such as Take a Chance. Of the original line up Paul Roche, Maurice Lennon and Tommy Hayes remain but it was brilliant to see Steve Cooney and Mike Hanrahan back in the line up too. For me the unique sound of the band rests on the driving guitar of Cooney and the brilliant percussion of Tommy Hayes which elevates the music and takes you along for the ride. Maurice Lennon has lost none of his fiddling prowess and weaved his magic brilliantly with his long time collaborator Paul Roche on flute and whistle and essential to that original sound was the familiar vocals of Mike Hanrahan. And I shouldn’t forget Cooney’s didgeridoo which back then was such a revelation but still works so brilliantly to enhance the music. There was plenty of energy on stage and it was clear they were enjoying being there as much we were; this despite some issues with the sound, which was frustrating to band and audience alike.
I left the hall humming the Belltable Waltz which I couldn’t get out of my head and, in the mood for music, managed to squeeze in some tunes at Kelly’s before heading home well satisfied. I look forward to seeing the band again at Doolin in July.
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