the Feis will become a welcome fixture in the festival calendar

London Feis 2011 review

published: Wed 29th Jun 2011


Saturday 18th to Sunday 19th June 2011
Finsbury Park, Haringey, London, N4 2DW, England MAP
£120 weekend, day tickets £70 for adults, £35 for carers, free for children under 12
daily capacity: 25000
last updated: Mon 18th Apr 2011

I take the tube rather than train today due to the frustration of just missing a train the night before because of the police crowd control for Finsbury Park station – which entailed a long walk around the block when the entrance to the station is 30 seconds away from the barrier, not so critical for those travelling by tube but meant that some punters missed their overground trains.

Foy Vance
I arrive in time for Foy Vance on Main Stage. Hailing from Northern Ireland and possessed with looping station, acoustic guitar, flat cap and a preternaturally powerful voice, I've seen him play quite often and today’s performance starts off dramatically with 'Be With Me', but dips towards the middle – maybe the music loses some impact with the addition of his "muckers" who join him for a few numbers (double bass, keys and drums), perhaps because the crowd aren't quite warmed up enough to be cajoled into singing along, or it could be the song selection is a bit middling. It's still a good set, just not as impactual as usual.

around the festival site (2)
Next up are Dublin band Hothouse Flowers, still featuring the two founding members, Liam Ó Maonlaí and Fiachna Ó Braonáin, and joined by Dave Clarke on drums and Martin Brunsden on double bass. They play an excellent and energetic, summery set including 'Hallelujah Jordan', 'Seeline Woman' and an almost calypso-style rendering of their 1988 hit single 'Don't Go'. There's a bit more audience participation, and a well received traditional song sung in Irish 'Sí Do Mhamó í', a story about a wealthy older widow and a younger man, with Ó Maonlaí lending bodhrán beats and Ó Braonáin on penny whistle.

Mulkerrin Brothers
Curiosity takes me over to Stage 3 where the Mulkerrin Brothers are playing. They seem to be liberally sprinkled through the two days of the festival and across two stages. Turns out they're shockingly young and talented – three young brothers who won an All Ireland talent contest a couple of years ago, they sing, play (guitars/banjos/accordion), performing traditional folk songs like 'Lakes of Pontchartrain' (sadly partly drowned out by the strains of Jimmy Cliff on the Main Stage) and 'Black Is the Colour' and do Irish dancing too. Brilliant!

Teddy Thompson is playing in the Big Top, a solo set of folk-rock numbers, including 'Home', dedicated to his mum Linda, 'Looking For a Girl' and 'Into My Arms'. Back to Main Stage for the Donegal band Clannad – I count ten musicians on stage plus Moya Brennan, who sings main vocals, plays harp and adds percussion. As well as performing some folk songs, a drinking song from Donegal, a match-making song from Galway, and a song dedicated to Rory McIlroy (the young Irish golfer who won the US Open over the weekend), they perform a medley of their beautiful music which accompanied the 'Robin of Sherwood' series – this provokes a collective nostalgic sigh from the audience and takes me straight back to being glued to the programme on a Saturday night (yes, hands up, I mostly watched it because of Michael Praed!). Their other well known songs from the '80s are also featured – 'Theme From Harry's Game' and 'In A Lifetime', with Liam Ó Maonlaí of the Hothouse Flowers guesting to take Bono's vocals.

Eddi Reader
Strolling back to the Big Top, it's evident that the number of punters is much reduced on yesterday, I'm not sure whether tickets were oversold yesterday or undersold today but the whole experience now is more pleasant and relaxed. Eddi Reader of Fairground Attraction fame is performing on Stage 2 with her band, seemingly comprised of members of other bands with singer-songwriter Boo Hewerdine on guitar. The second guitarist is John Douglas of the The Trashcan Sinatras who Reader describes as her "current life partner for the moment" – they sing one of his songs 'New York City' written about an ex-girlfriend and they pilfer Ciaran Wilde, the saxophonist from Mary Coughlan's band, to join them on that plus a couple more songs. Other highlights are the Hewerdine compositions - 'Muddy Water' and 'Dragonflies', about how fleeting life is, as well as Fairground Attraction's hit single 'Perfect’ with one of the lines in the chorus changed to "It's got to be Cel-tic" to loud cheers. Reader is very engaging and chatty during her set and a feel-good atmosphere pervades as the band launches into the Robert Burns song 'You're Welcome, Willie Stewart' and I make my way back to Main Stage.

Van Morrison is headlining Feis tonight although he has the penultimate slot (Thin Lizzy are closing the festival after his set), which leads people to muse whether he has an early bedtime. He takes to the stage, effortlessly cool, dressed all in black, including shades and hat, with his big band comprising brass section, piano, keys, drums and guitars. They launch straight in to 'Baby, Please Don't Go' and deliver one hit after another. 'Brown Eyed Girl' is played early in the set, 'Moon Dance' and 'Gloria' later on with crowd participation. There are no theatrics or stagecraft and, as with Dylan last night, no banter with the audience – again, Van the Man only speaks to introduce his band towards the end. The music is soulful and mellow, and most of the crowd are jigging and singing along, it's perfect for today's chilled atmosphere.

Like a lot of the punters, I slip away at the end of Van Morrison's set before the police cordon descends on Finsbury Park station.

With a bit of tweaking – keeping the numbers down so that there's space to walk, putting up screens for Main Stage, like most of the festivals do now, enhancing the listening experience at Stage 3, making ticket prices affordable – and continuing in the tradition of the best of the Fleadh, with a good balance of retro and new music, the Feis will become a welcome fixture in the festival calendar.

Van Morrison Set List:

Baby, Please Don't Go
Here Comes the Night
Brown Eyed Girl
Fair Play
Real Real Gone/You Send Me
I Can't Stop Loving You
Moon Dance
Have I Told You Lately
It's All In the Game
In the Garden
Star of the County Down
Help Me

Van Morrison
review by: Helen OSullivan

photos by: Helen OSullivan

Saturday 18th to Sunday 19th June 2011
Finsbury Park, Haringey, London, N4 2DW, England MAP
£120 weekend, day tickets £70 for adults, £35 for carers, free for children under 12
daily capacity: 25000
last updated: Mon 18th Apr 2011

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