Danú, Hugh's Room, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, October 2, 2002
Waterford's Danú are clearly one of the bright lights amongst the new generation of Irish traditional musicians, boasting some incredible individual and collective talent. I had last seen Danú at the Winnipeg Folk Festival, and was really looking forward to this gig. I was not to be disappointed!
Hugh's Room is fast becoming one of the spots for folk music in Toronto, filling a much needed gap in the city's assortment of venues. As I mentioned in my review of Barachois, the room is a series of tiered tables, and dinner can be ordered prior to the show. The staff are friendly and fairly prompt, but don't intrude on the show, and all summer they've had an apricot ale on tap that is simply fabulous. CDs are available in the bar at the back of the room, near the entrance, and the band often use the breaks to head to the bar, sign CDs and chat with the crowd. With six of the seven members of Danú present, there was plenty of congeniality during the break and after the show.
By this time, you're likely guessing that I'm going to rave about the show. You would be right. These lads have a fine sense for arrangements, and an even better sense for material. While I've greatly enjoyed their albums, I must say that their live shows are better. With six performers on stage (guitarist Noel Ryan was ill), Danú can vary their sound quite a bit. As well, they've been touring extensively, and this experience shows itself in a very tight, together sound. Present this evening were Tom Doorley on flutes and low whistle, brother Eamon Doorley on bouzouki and mandola, Brendan McCarthy on button accordion, Jesse Smith on fiddle and viola, Donnchadh Gough on bodhran and uilleann pipes, with vocalist Ciarán Ó Gealbháin also doing a turn on the piano accordion.
Most of the band's material came from their new album, All Things Considered, although I recognized a few tunes from their earlier Think Before You Think. Ó Gealbháin deserves his reputation as a traditional vocalist -- his singing of "Bridget O'Donaghue" and "Óró, Sé Do Bheatha 'Bhaile! Óró, (You Are Welcome Home)" were definitely highlights of the evening -- showing that even familiar songs can be exciting with the right treatment. The many instrumental sets were also wonderful as well -- it's difficult to select a standout amongst these sets, and impossible to find one that dragged. The other highlight of the evening was the last set, where each of the individual members did a solo break -- this was simply great fun, and a chance to hear each member individually. The crowd ate this up -- I obviously wasn't the only one who was enjoying myself, and I was in fine company!
Let me sum up: If you have the chance -- go see Danú. I've used up most of my pat phrases and gushed about the band on several occasions now, so I won't go on with overblown verbiage. You'll thank me when you see them for yourself!