Black 47 has a reputation for playing high volume, high energy live shows. Leader Larry Kirwan once described his band as being "loud and proud." While the New York City based musicians were a bit more subdued than usual this past Saturday night (Only Kirwan was animated and appeared to be having fun) it made their performance tighter so the music shined through without any distractions.
Perhaps the band's lack of exuberance was reflected by the fact that the sextet performed in front of a very small crowd. The seventh annual Xtreme Folk Festival was sparsely attended and there appeared to be only about a hundred people present when the festival's headliner hit the stage a little after 9 PM. By the time the two hour show was completed there didn't appear to be more than fifty people in attendance and these included festival workers and volunteers. Perhaps it was just getting late for everyone after a long day of music.
It was a night for a lot of old Black 47 favorites including "Green Suede Shoes," "Funky Ceili," "Rockin' The Bronx," "Desperate," "Living In America," "Fire Of Freedom," and "Maria's Wedding." They also offered three brand new Kirwan tunes, "Starry Night," "Night In Ramadi," and "Izzy's Irish Rose." (Perhaps this means there is a new album coming out soon). "Ramadi" is another Kirwan anti-war song and "Izzy" is another one of his fine stories about a love affair between a boy and a girl from different ethnic groups, something that was often scandalous early in the Twentieth Century. This time Kirwan tells a tale about a Jewish boy in love with an Irish girl in New York City. The song is in the same vein as "Banks Of The Hudson" and "Fatima," two earlier Black 47 songs covering the same territory. Kirwan is a master at writing these musical novelettes.
For a festival that seemed to be run on a shoe string the sound was quite clear and Kirwan's vocals were never buried under the onslaught of a loud electric band. Black 47 always give their best, whether they play in front of thousands or just a few dozen fans, and those who stayed thoroughly enjoyed themselves.