One Night in Dublin – Spa Pavilion

The Wild Murphys’ show ‘One Night in Dublin’ is an Irish Music tribute night. To be honest, I am not a great fan of tribute shows but Grapevine Magazine’s listings abound with tributes of one form or another, so it seemed rude to turn down an opportunity to go and see one for myself.

This particular tribute show brought its own complications in that I am a Dubliner – possibly the only one in the audience in Felixstowe.  Plus, I have seen most of the songs played live by the original artists as well as having had the privilege of interviewing many along the way. 

Add to this my penchant for the pedantic and you might understand why this review had the potential to go horribly wrong!  However, placing all my preconceived notions about subject and genre in a sealed, airtight box, I strolled along the seafront to one of my favourite theatres, Felixstowe’s Spa Pavilion.

Pre-show research led me to believe that Middi Murphy and his band, The Wild Murphys, don’t take themselves too seriously – take a look at their five-star reviews on their website, you’ll see what I mean.  The show itself proved that, regardless of their self-deprecating style, they take the music very seriously indeed.

One Night in Dublin is set in Murphy’s Fighting Irish pub.  There is a bar, in the middle of which sits a drum kit. The painted backdrop awash with tiny details, read the names on the various bottles of alcohol and you have what pretty much amounts to the set list.  I particularly liked the sign declaring “Today’s Special Offer: Buy any two drinks and pay for both of them!”   The signpost declaring that it was 640 miles to Dublin worried me – it was pointing out into the North Sea.  There was a wealth of detail on the set, an attention to detail that continued through the show.

We began with a medley of tunes played by Sophy Ball on the fiddle including ‘Danny Boy’ and ‘The Mountains of Mourne‘ to get us in the mood. That was about as soft and gentle as the night was going to be as the band then leapt into ‘Whiskey in The Jar’, a song made popular by The Dubliners in the 60s, plugged in and rocked up by Thin Lizzy in the 70s, revived yet again by The Dubliners with The Pogues in the 90s and Metallica won a Grammy for their version in 2000!

Down in Molly’s Bar’ introduced us to the dancers who would come and go throughout the show, either dancing front of stage or on the bar either side of the drummer.  Their ‘Liverdance’ drunken act brought me all the way back to the Leopardstown Racecourse in Dublin and the drunken discos of my youth!

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One Night in Dublin is a high energy show, a high-quality theatrical production where nothing happens on stage that hasn’t been rehearsed. But in no way is it sterile, the band’s passion for the music is tangible, the fun they are having genuine.

In explaining how a man from the English Midlands became an Irish music fan, Middi told of how he travelled with his Dad to see the Irish touring showbands. During this story Middi paid a tribute I wasn’t expecting – to Irish comedian and singer Brenda Grace.   I still sing the gaelic words of his bilingual version of ‘Deliah’ much to the confusion of my children and American wife!

‘The Night That Paddy Murphy Died’ brought the first half to a close – being pedantic this is a Newfoundland song but totally acceptable as it tells the story of an Irish wake.

Refreshed after the interval we went straight into ‘Nancy Whisky’, ‘Galway Girl’, ‘Molly Malone’ and many more. Listening to the voices around me it really is amazing how many parts of lines and half choruses people know.  But the point was that people were engaged in what was going on and having a good time into the bargain.

I don’t know how many Flogging Molly fans were in the audience apart from me, but to have included in the set, not one, but two of my favourite ‘Molly songs was a real treat: ‘Drunken Lullabies’ – possibly the only song in the set played marginally slower that the original, but to be fair, the band were well into their second hour by now – and ‘If I Ever leave This World Alive’.  Scarily both of these ‘modern Irish songs’ are now over twenty years old.

There were plenty more songs before the show ended, much waving of hands and singing along.  The show ended on another favourite of mine ‘I Useta Lover’ – a Saw Doctors classic.  The two hours had flown by and successfully banished my fear of the tribute show.  I could unlock my airtight box and let my preconceived notions float away on the North Sea as I walked back along the prom. 

This wasn’t just a band playing Irish music, these are talented, passionate musicians who have put together a show that works – “A damm fine show” was how I overheard it described by an audience member as I left, I couldn’t disagree.

Listings at Spa Pavilion, Felixstowe