Lucid Culture
Feb. 22, 2010
Black 47 at Connolly’s

Concert Review: Black 47 at Connolly’s, NYC 2/20/10

February 22, 2010

One of New York’s most popular bands is hidden in plain sight. When Black 47 aren’t on the road, or frontman Larry Kirwan isn’t putting on a play (he’s written over ten at last count) or he’s off on a book tour (his new novel Rockin’ the Bronx is a real page-turner – more on that one here soon), the band plays Connolly’s in midtown on Saturday nights. This week the legendary Irish-American rockers – whose 2008 cd Iraq we picked as best album of the year – are doing a benefit for Haiti on the 24th at Connolly’s at 7 PM with a roots reggae band, a better segue than you might think. This past Saturday’s show was a real revelation. After 20 years on the road, the band might be better than ever. How do you keep a legend fresh?

With new material. Black 47’s forthcoming cd – which you can get at shows now – is titled Bankers and Gangsters. You can’t get much more apropos than that. It’s not all jigs and reels either – the band played a couple for the dance contests, one of them an eerie reverb number like an Irish version of Pipeline or a Link Wray song – but what they most resemble these days is the Boomtown Rats or the Clash. “Songs of freedom,” Kirwan reminded the crowd more than once, and the audience – an impressively polyglot, demographically mixed bunch of drinkers – drank it up. At this point in their careeer, Black 47 could phone it in and probably get away with it, but instead they opt for spectacle, again like the Clash. They gave away cds, t-shirts and gave their killer horn section plenty of time centerstage, taking a Stevie Wonder riff to the Emerald Isle and teasing the crowd with a classic Clash intro. Later soprano sax player Geoffrey Blythe, trombonist Fred Parcells and uilleann piper Joseph Mulvanerty would take a ska jazz interlude with a bunch of classic 50s riffs from Miles Davis et al. They played a bunch of their signature songs, the defiant, raised-middle-finger emigrant anthem Funky Ceili and the off-kilter, whiskey-fueled hangover-from-hell number 40 Shades of Blue among them, Kirwan with his megawatt grin often reaching into the crowd for a lyric, seeing that pretty much everybody knew them and were only too glad to holler them back. But it was the new songs that impressed the most: the vividly anticipatory Long Hot Summer Comin’ On, the characteristically anthemic, sardonic title track from the new album, the surreal Lower East Side narrative Izzy’s Irish Rose and the long, even more tongue-in-cheek minor-key ballad Long Lost Tapes of Hendrix.

Kirwan could have picked another old favorite for the first of the encores, but he didn’t, instead going with the bluesy, sarcastic Sadr City, which is basically Kansas City rewritten from the point of view of an American soldier in Iraq who can’t wait to get out. Anyone who might misguidedly think that political songs can’t galvanize an audience should have seen the fist-raising, Guinness-fueled reaction to that one. They closed with the ridiculously catchy janglerock hit Maria’s Wedding, a still-jealous wedding crasher’s equally belated and useless apology. After over an hour and a half worth of music, the crowd still wanted more. The band’ll be back here on the 24th for the Haiti benefit at 7, then on the 27th at 10, followed by a gig at the College of Staten Island on March 12. Kirwan is also playing at stops on his book tour: his next New York signing is March 8 at Barnes & Noble at 97 Warren St. in Tribeca.

Categories: Live Events · Music · New York City · Reviews · concert · music, concert · review · rock music
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