Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Dazzled by Dervish in a thrilling return

Cathy JordanCathy Jordan (Photo credit: arndt_hoppe)RETURNING to Cheltenham for the first time since 1999, accomplished Irish sextet Dervish lit up the Town Hall, almost too literally at times, thanks to a superlative performance of traditional, largely instrumental, music from western Ireland, with Bob Dylan's Boots of Spanish Leather thrown into the effervescent mix.

Sustaining that unmistakable Irish sound throughout their 90-minute set, their musicianship was thrilling to behold: haunting flute airs, fluent violin strains, precision melodeon and mandolin breaks, underpinned by Cathy Jordan's spirited accompaniment on bones and the requisite bodhran to complement her clear, soaring vocals, even if the acoustics weren't always favourable to hearing the words. I especially enjoyed the witty An Spaílpan Fánach, the evocative Greenmore Hills and jolly Fair Maid, while the audience was in equally good voice during Bold Doherty and Take Your Hands Off Lydia Mary.

The momentum held up through several series of reels and jigs, carried by Liam Kelly's scintillating flute and whistle skills. While Irish eyes were clearly smiling, mine weren't, however, after the lighting crew swivelled that on-stage blue and white spotlight which hit me full in the face with the force of a laser beam, and I feared for my retinae. My vision eventually restored, we were further serenaded by the rousing drinking song Peigin Mo Chroi.

The rhythm increased, pulses quickened; it was Riverdance without the dancers, but even that was partially remedied towards the end, as the gangways came alive with a few whirling dervishes from the audience. As the band raced through a closing salvo of reels, any remaining inhibitions rapidly evaporated, the punters were partying and the final ovation was sincere and emphatic. It was exhilarating, well-coordinated and heartfelt, but I might take dark glasses next time they're in town.

Simon Lewis

Dazzled by Dervish in a thrilling return | This is Gloucestershire

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