Tonight, saw a very special house concert, held in the beautiful setting of a new studio for social creativity in the heart of Stoneybatter, Dublin. The venue is softly lit and the intimate space is just perfect for the crowd that settles into a quietly compelling performance by Contemporary Folk legend John Gorka.
John is finishing off a European tour and is in Dublin to visit his son, Joe, who is studying at Trinity College. This was a hastily arranged gig and the relatively short notice does not take away from the experience of getting up close and personal with an artist who has been producing music of a consistently high quality over the last 30 years.
Visiting his back catalogue with an easy grace, John plays 2 sets, taking requests and also featuring his latest release, True In Time, from which he plays 4 songs. His stage presence is very relaxed and his great sense of humour comes over very strongly during the between-song introductions and stories that surround many of the songs played.
With 14 records to your name you could be forgiven for not remembering every song in the back catalogue but John displays an impressive recall by visiting no less than 7 of his past releases over the evening. In fact, it is his debut, back in 1987, which is given most attention with 4 songs featured; Like My Watch, Love Is Our Cross To Bear, Branching Out and I Saw a Stranger With Your Hair.
Other highlights included Blue Chalk, Wisheries, Good Noise, Unblindfold the Referee, Land of the Bottom Line, and Writing in the Margins. An unrecorded song, Particle & Wave, is also very well received and we are treated to tales of his growing up in New Jersey, living in Pennsylvania and moving to Minnesota. There is a Prince cover, When Doves Cry, stripped down and slowed in tempo in order to bring out the essence of the arrangement and the words; the mark of a true craftsman. Of the new material, Tattooed, Arroyo Seco, Nazarene Guitar and True In Time fit right in and sound like they are old friends already.
John asks his son Joe to play 2 numbers and we are introduced to a confident performer with a very interesting vocal gift, not unlike his father’s warm baritone. Joe sings a John Mayer song (Waiting For the World To Change) and a Passenger song (Let Her Go).
John Gorka is a versatile writer with plenty of humour and insight running through his words and music. Lauded as one of the finest songwriters of the 1990’s he has not lost his gift to deliver serious content in a deceptively light hearted manner and his finely-honed communication skills make this a night to remember and also one of wishing he will return more often to our shores.
Review by Paul McGee Photograph by Kaethe Burt O’Dea