plus Questions and Answers
with Larry Kirwan
call Larry Kirwan a busy man would be an understatement. In addition to being
the front man for Black 47, one of the hardest-working bands in the business,
he is also a respected solo artist, an author and playwright, an actor, a husband
and father, and a political activist.
been listening to Black 47 since 1992, when, always eager for new material, I
was drawn in by the band's unique instrumentation. What then made me a loyal fan
was the quality of Kirwan's thought-provoking lyrics, which have the power to
raise a whole gamut of emotions, from laughter, to anger, to sorrow. With the
skill of a born storyteller, and the precise diction and delivery of an actor,
he draws the listener in with every word. Even in live performance, where each
hall's own unique traits can have adverse effects on sound quality, you will not
find yourself scratching your head and wondering what words Kirwan just sang.
He enunciates, by God, and no one is going to miss his message!
band's present line-up features Kirwan on lead vocals, guitar, and drum machine;
Geoff Blythe on saxophones; Fred Parcells on trombone and tin whistles; Tom "Hammy"
Hamlin on drums and Humorous Stage Antics; Andrew Goodsight on bass; and Joe Mulvanerty
on uilleann pipes, tin whistles, flute, and bodhran.
men, who are all excellent musicians, really put on one hell of a show. November
sixteenth, at the Met Café in Providence, is the tenth I have attended since rediscovering
the band on the Internet in April of 2000.
had eagerly bought both "Fire of Freedom" and "Home of the Brave"
in the early 1990s, but never heard anything more about Black 47 after that. They
certainly weren't getting airplay on any of my local radio stations, and I believed
they had been a wonderful but short-lived act. How delighted I was to have a random
web search prove me wrong!
addition to that, I soon learned that Kirwan likes to maintain personal contact
with fans of the band. In my experience, this is not typical. Used to the cloak-and-dagger
mystique of the bands I followed when I was younger, I was shocked when, at the
first show I attended in Boston, I ran full-tilt into Kirwan and Parcells as they
were entering the venue, fresh from the long trek up from New York City. Being
still a totally awestruck fan at the time, I just stared and blinked as the two
men passed me.
have changed! I've progressed from blinking and staring in shock to sitting in
the green room at the Met Café, chatting with Kirwan as my portable tape recorder
It's a noisy
venue, even with the door shut, and I'm thankful that e-mail correspondence has
enabled me to ask most of my questions already. The tape recorder is just to pick
up anything I might have forgotten, and to capture whatever interesting anecdotes
Kirwan might be inclined to divulge.
is in the process of exchanging his track shoes for wild socks and a pair of soft-soled
green suede oxfords. These are the "Green Suede Shoes" of the song, though under
the stage lights they appear to be beige. Now, seeing their true color for the
first time, I have to comment:
Love the shoes. Never noticed they were green before.
These? They're falling apart now. Got to get another pair of green ones.
draws a patterned, pinkish-red sock from his bag and turns it right side out.
LK: There was a sock
lady who used to show up at Paddy Reilly's for various gigs. She would run in,
and her husband would be at the door waving, and she'd give me a big thing of
socks, then she'd leave. She disappeared about three years ago. These are some
she gave me.
glad you mentioned socks. I've been wanting to ask - how big are your feet, so
I can knit you a pair of wild socks?
no one has a tape measure handy, so we line our shoes up, sole to sole, and discover
our feet are pretty much the same size. Now I just have to find the right wild
yarn to go with those Green Suede Shoes. Fans, keep your eyes on those feet in
the coming months…
atmosphere in the green room is slightly tense, as we have just heard that bassist
Andrew Goodsight's car has broken down, and he may not make it to the gig. Kirwan
is compiling the song list, still managing to be good-humored. "Trying to think
of songs that don't need a bass that much," he says. "Bobby Sands MP" is on the
list for now, just in case Goodsight does arrive, but everyone knows another song
will be substituted at the last minute if he doesn't.
a musician who has played in small ensembles myself, I know how one person's unexpected
absence can affect the general mood; and I've only dealt with it in a rehearsal
situation. If it had ever happened at a gig, I'm sure I would have fallen apart.
It amazes me, how calmly Kirwan is weathering this.
This brings up an interesting question, actually. How can you proceed when someone
doesn't show? You just work around it as best you can?
Yup. Show goes on. You try and compensate for it somehow. It's like dada-ism.
You're presented with a hand, and you go with it. You don't freak out. These things
happen. Two hundred fifty gigs a year - something's gonna happen. I used to freak
out, but what's the point?
No, it's not going to solve anything. It's not going to solve the problem.
You just get more uptight. People are here to see you, to hear the songs. We'll
wait 'til eleven to go on - we're not due to go on 'til eleven, anyway. There's
a chance he may show up…
Pages 2 3
Larry Kirwan, by Guenter Friedrichs
2. Geoff Blythe, by Keith Warner
Geoff Blythe, Larry Kirwan, and Fred Parcells, by Keith Warner
4. Andrew Goodsight,
by Guenter Friedrichs