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Copyright Nick Morgan and crew

Concert Review by Nick Morgan

The Forum, Kentish Town, London,
April 18th 2009

As I think you know I was a big fan of Del Shannon back in the old days, largely because the copy of ‘Little town flirt’ that a neighbour gave us was for many years about the only record we had in the house – even before we had a Dansette record player. But you could actually play it with a pin if you spun it on the top of your finger and listened very closely. Though ‘Flirt’ charted in the UK at number 4, what was of more interest was the remarkably (even at the time) culturally insensitive B side, ‘The Wamboo’. With lyrics like this:

Del Shannon
Del Shannon
        Well way down deep in the Belgian Congo - hey the Congo
Well there's a dance they call the wamboo - hey the Wamboo
And as they dance they sing this song, wam-boo wam-boo way, wamboo,
With voodoo drums beating all night long, wam-boo wam-boo way, wamboo
Wam-boo wam-boo way, wam-boo wam-boo way
Wam-boo wam-boo way-o!
Who really needs peace, love and understanding? Anyway, we decided to ‘time capsule’ the record for posterity, and it now lies safely entombed under concrete in a very secret spot in Oxfordshire. No doubt it will explain something of the folly of human civilisation when it’s discovered by some post-apocalyptic archaeologist. Or maybe not.
All of this might lead you to think that I’m struggling to say anything much about Sharon Shannon’s (no relation) performance at the Forum a couple of weeks ago, which sadly isn’t far from the truth. It’s not that I don’t have huge admiration for this genre-defying performer who, through a variety of imaginative collaborations, has managed to bring the accordion, kicking and screaming, into the twentieth century. And it’s not that she, or her accomplished band, didn’t perform well, although the almost painful smile that Ms Shannon had painted on her face suggested at times that she was playing through a pain barrier, as if suffering from the accordionists’ version of repetitive strain injury. With her group taking turns to lead (although frankly I don’t think we’d really paid our money to hear the roadie perform his party piece ‘Dancing in the moonlight’), she conjured up a relaxed almost ceilidh-like atmosphere on the stage, which was enjoyed by the crowded balcony, all pints of Guinness and up for some Saturday night craic, and by the noisy but frankly half- empty downstairs.
Sharon Shannon
Sharon Shannon
But truth is, after a while the songs and tunes tended to merge together into a sort of Gaelic wallpaper, and if you nodded off half-way through a song you could wake thinking that you were trapped in the living hell of a woollen shop in Oban.
So Ms Shannon’s tactic to break through the tedium was ‘Special Guests’. Camille O’Sullivan burst on the stage larger than life, wearing the sort of short skirt that made you glad you weren’t at the front of the stage, and tore into her witty song ‘In these shoes’. It didn‘t get any better than this, with a predictable rendition of ‘The port of Amsterdam’ (hammy enough to fill several baguettes) that must have had poor old Jacques Brel spinning in his grave. Her version of ‘Don’t think twice it’s alright’, a difficult enough song to perform at the best of times, sung from a lyric sheet, was simply lamentable.
Camille O'Sullivan
Shane MacGowan, Camille O’Sullivan,
Shane MacGowan
But it got worse – and I’ll be very honest and say now that had I known that Shane MacGowan was the big ‘Special Guest’ I wouldn’t have bought tickets; I’ve expressed my view on this subject before. He had a coterie of fans downstairs who could have been at a bear-baiting, cheering as he staggered onto the stage clutching a pint glass of vodka. Why people want to watch someone as ill as MacGowan humiliate themself in public is beyond me and even if he does need the money, I question the judgement of anyone who puts him on stage. He very clearly didn’t know what day it was, let alone which microphone to use, and when he poured a pint of beer over himself, incapable of getting the glass to his lips, we decided to call it a day and bid our farewell to the not-so-funny Kentish Town Forum. - Nick Morgan (concert photographs by Kate)
Listen: Sharon Shannon's page on MySpace

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