Phil Vassar @ Whelans - 29th June 2016

The first support act is Dublin born Niamh Lynn, now residing in Cavan. Lynn has been building up quite a reputation of late in country music circles, quite justifiably based on her short set this evening. Her classic country vocal recently earned her the compliment, by Ryan Tubridy, of being the Imelda May of country. Particularly striking are her delivery of the Irving Berlin classic Always dedicated to her late grandmother and an equally impressive version of Sing Me An Old Fashioned Song. Expect to hear a lot more about this talented young lady going forward.

Next up is Athboy singer songwriter Matt Leavy. Highly respected within Irish country music circles Leavy does what he does best, breezing through a set of impressive covers of material by Randy Travis, George Jones, Kenny Rogers and Kris Kristofferson.

Phil Vassar’s pedigree as a songwriter in Nashville is second to none and includes ten No.1 singles and over twenty top forty hits. Alan Jackson, Tim Mc Graw, Jo Dee Messina and many others have all successfully recorded Vassar’s material. He has also gained a deserved reputation as a powerhouse piano player and live performer and those lucky enough to be in attendance this evening are treated to a full on, whirlwind journey through his back catalogue together with some newer material to be included in his next recording.

Less country than I expected, his stage show often brings to mind the music of Billy Joel, Bruce Hornsby, Ben Folds and surprisingly even Springsteen on a number of his songs.

His band consists of long time guitar partner Jeff Smith, Danny, Dessie and Simon Sheerin (from the hugely talented Sheerin Family)  providing his rhythm section and Vassar himself on piano, occasionally sitting, more often standing upright but always showcasing his playing skills.

Vassar plays a low key solo opener before being joined by the band and launching into crowd favourites Carlene and Just Another Day in Paradise. His stage presence and ability to engage with and entertain the   audience is second to none and clear evidence of an artist in his comfort zone as a live performer.

His set is comical (Just Another Day In Paradise), sad (Last Day Of My Life), romantic (Love Is A Beautiful Thing), fun (Like The Rolling Stones) and also includes a superb rendition of Help Me Make It Through The Night. Not content on reeling out all his best known songs Vassar also performs some very impressive new material (Sound Of A Million Dreams and I’ll Meet You There) to be included in his next album.

The age profile in the audience is interesting given that it ranges possibly from early twenties to three or four decades older, quite encouraging to see quite a number of younger punters for an artist that has been performing and entertaining for over twenty five years.

The standing ovation at the end of the show summed up a complete evening’s entertainment by a consummate professional and delightful artist who appeared to enjoy the show every much as his audience.

LCM Promotions promised a night of rock and country music and they delivered with an evening that was welcomed by an enthusiastic gathering.

Review and photograph by Declan Culliton