Lisa Hannigan @ White Horse, Ballincollig, Cork 11 June 2016

The White Horse in Ballincollig, Co Cork has always been synonymous with live music, but for many years it had seemed to have fallen off the map and hadn’t been showing up in the Cork gig guides. Thankfully that has changed and in recent times a host of Ireland’s finest artist have been selling out dates at this intimate venue.

These days people often throw the phrase “hardest working band” around willy-nilly, but I think a 350 Km round trip to play a gig in Doolin, Co Clare before returning to Ballincollig to open tonight’s show must make Carlow brothers, Brían and Diarmuid Mac Gloinn AKA, Ye Vagabonds worthy of the moniker. Their style of traditional folk is laden with gorgeous harmonies and their ability to switch between instruments effortlessly made for an enthralling experience. Their interaction with the audience was excellent, in what must be a rather intimidating setting.

No standing point in this excellent venue is more than 25 feet away from the stage and the 2 seated rows are almost close enough to feel the performer’s breath.  The opening number of their 6 song set ‘Go Where You Will’ was the highlight for me, but it was their version of The Johnstons’ song ‘The Lark In The Morning’ which got the best crowd reaction.

The main event tonight was Lisa Hannigan, a singer/songwriter who is widely regarded as one of Ireland’s finest. The arrival of a first new single since the 2012 album ‘Passenger’ has meant that tickets for the current run of shows are in very short supply. Opening unaccompanied with ‘Little Bird’ from the ‘Passenger’ album, Lisa took to the dimly lit stage in what felt like plus 30° heat.

The hauntingly, beautiful new single ‘Prayer For The Dying’ followed next, while Lisa was joined by bandmates on double bass, piano/keys and drums. The set included five unnamed tracks that all sounded new to me, and for the most part they followed the same slower, folk inspired style of the new single, all five went down extremely well with the crowd.

The temperature gradually increased as the night wore on, but Lisa seemed to be revelling in the conditions; slight technical difficulties with, firstly a broken guitar strap and secondly a forgotten lyric did nothing to dampen the mood. The tempo quickly followed suit as she dug into the back catalogue, Old favourites ‘A Sail’, ‘Pistachio’ and ‘Knots’ in particular had the packed house singing along.

Ye Vagabonds joined Lisa on stage for the encore and performed a beautiful rendition of ‘Passenger’ before the rest of the band returned for what, in my opinion, was the highlight of an already marvellous show, ‘Song For Lisa’ was a 2011 collaboration with Northern Irish, electronic act The Japanese Popstars and the folk/pop makeover it was given tonight was outstanding.

Words by Anthony Kelly

Photo: Fred Morledge