David Corley and Band @ Cleeres, Kilkenny -18th May 2017

David Corley at the ripe age of 53, released his debut album Available Light in 2015. Willie Meighan, the pied piper of all things music in The Marble City, was out of the blocks shortly after its release educating his customers and going a long way to establish the album as the Rollercoaster customer album of the year in 2015, by a country mile it has to be said. Corley’s first invitation to our shores was to appear in Kilkenny that year and subsequently perform at The Roots Festival in 2016. Corley and Kilkenny are a marriage made in heaven joining other artists such as Willy Vlautin of Richmond Fontaine, John Murry and Peter Bruntnell to name a few who publicly declare the city and in particular the music room at Cleeres to be a very special and magical place.

That subsequent meeting of minds led to a collective  high level of expectation from the audience,  Mr. Corley and his entourage on his return to Kilkenny, as much a celebration of goodwill, friendship and of course the captivating show that is guaranteed when Corley performs. Accompanying him on his tour of Ireland are his producer and band member Hugh Christopher Brown and Canadian singer songwriter Suzanne Jarvie.

Chris Brown and Suzanne Jarvie’s set was delivered as a duo and featured material from albums previously released by both and songs from Brown’s recent recording Pacem and a preview of Jarvie’s latest work due for release later in the year. Having played Ireland last year it was obvious that they had attracted a number of return punters familiar with their material. The opening song To The Lighthouse, from Brown’s new album titled Pacem, immediately connected with the punters. A beautiful song which recalled duets by Bonnie Prince Billy, the combined vocals of Brown and Jarvie are perfectly matched. Jarvie performed Before and After from her debut album Spiral Road, the title track of the album she’s is currently working on called In The Clear, both gorgeous folk songs soaked in country. Bob Dylan’s Senor also featured which she introduced by remarking how great it was to be in Europe for a while as far away as possible from the current corruption in the States. Brown invited Corley on stage to share the vocals on the quite stunning Moved By Hands To Shelter ( also from the Pacem album) accompanied also by Ger Moloney on accordion.  Brown, tongue in cheek, recalled how he christened it ‘the heart attack song’, composed in hospital visiting Corley when he was recovering from a near fatal heart attack in The Netherlands in 2016.

Taking the stage with Chris Brown and what he described as his garage band Corley’s set initially concentrated on material from his second full album Zero Moon released the previous week. His band consisted of Chris Brown on guitar and keyboards and locals multi-instrumentalist Peter Flynn on bass, Dan Pearson on drums and Dave Holland on guitar with Suzanne Jarvie adding backing vocals and Ger Moloney joining them on accordion on certain songs. Initially propped on a stool to ease a dodgy knee as a result of walking the cobbled street of Kilkenny Corley explained that his garage band had less than five hours to rehearse for the set and pleaded understanding. Over the next ninety minutes he transported everyone in the room through dark, painful and joyous landscapes recounted with his trademark gravely whiskey soaked baritone. Having kicked off with Take Me Down Some and Burning Chrome Corley casually asked his band how they were doing to which Holland cautiously replied ‘Ish’! Brown, always the producer and mentor, took the bull by the horns and after apologising for turning his back to the audience while playing guitar, coached the rhythm section through the next few songs one of which was the epic Desert Mission, one of many highlights from the new album. Despite inevitably straying occasionally Brown’s calming influence on the band  kicked in even managing to eradicate drummer Pearson’s initial ‘dentist waiting room expression’ and relaxing him to the extent that by the end of the set he was delivering backing vocals.

Continuing with material from Zero Moon Corley introduced Never Say Your Name as ‘a song about a girl and I don’t write love songs’ and Whirl, from the new album but written a long time ago which featured Corley switching keyboards and guitar with Brown. Suzanne Jarvie joined them on stage for Zero Moon, a monster of a song, intense, passionate and beautifully delivered both vocally by Corley and the band who appeared to relax and grow as the set developed. ‘Time for some old songs now’ declared Corley before   launching in to Available Light and Easy Mistake from his debut album after which he confided that they were played in the wrong order from the set list to add more confusion to the set. A classic delivery of The Calm Revolution ended the set like a tornado with Corley giving Dave Holland the nod of encouragement to take off the shackles and improvise resulting in some ripping sonic guitar work that brought the house down. Encores included Down With The Universe with Moloney back on stage to add accordion, Vision Pilgrim and Blind Man before Corley finally left the stage after a remarkable evening’s entertainment.

‘I have dreams of walking in to this bar and this music room. It’s such a magical place for Chris and myself to return to, like nowhere else’.

Three hours earlier Richie Healy had opened the evening with a storming set of futuristic alt-folk accompanied on stage by another set of crack local musicians in Conan Doyle (handmade Kydd Bass, extraordinarily beautiful instrument!), Kevin Bruce (Guitar) and Ger Moloney, whose accordion playing added another dimension to all the acts he contributed to over the course of the evening.

In the bar afterwards Corley apologised for the show being a bit on the loose side. On the contrary the spontaneity, improvisation and first night apprehension by the band all added to a most memorable night by an exceptional and very special artist.

Review and photography by Declan Culliton