The only time the audience at Friday night’s 3-hour, sold-out concert at Derry’s Millennium theatre stopped clapping was to roll up their sleeves, and then only to clap even harder.
Such was the effect Nathan Carter had on them.
Liverpool-born, of northern Irish parents, this talented, charismatic performer had his listeners in the palm of his hand from the get-go. And they wouldn’t let him leave the stage until he and his five-member backing group had performed two encores.
Whether you’re a fan of country or traditional music, it’s hard not to like this energetic, gregarious fellow who not only sings extremely well, reaching those high and low notes others fail to, but playing several instruments, including piano and accordion.
Not only, he can also do a few crowd-pleasing shuffle dances and a fine rendition of the rather exhausting traditional Irish ‘brush dance.’
And he’s a dab hand at humor, raising some hilarity Friday when he talked about buying a velvet suit in Sligo and it taking him 15 minutes to get into the pants. When he mentioned he might need some help getting out of them after the show, there was no shortage of volunteers among his adoring fans.
Such was the quality of the show, the trio who played before him, led by singer-instrumentalist Olivia Douglas, were also excellent, especially on ‘Leaving Tipperary,’ as was the added touch of having 11-year-old Caillin Joe from Tyrone, who has wowed judges on ‘The Voice’ television talent show, sing on-stage.
Based on the evidence on display, beaming smiles, happy faces, enthusiastic participation, some people dressed as Santa, others dressed as reindeers (complete with fairy lights around their heads), it is little wonder almost all of Carter’s 13 Christmas shows are already sold-out.
Obviously, if you need a ticket you should buy it right now. You won’t be disappointed.
They say, ‘The devil is in the detail,’ and that is clearly obvious in Carter’s preparations, in the ease with which he and his band members moved back and forth across the stage, highlighting a sax, tin whistle or a guitar solo, in the skilful use of stairs on the stage, in a piano wrapped like a gift box complete with silver bow. Even in the use of the fog machine.
Nathan and his management team, including John Farry, realize fully the importance of fan loyalty and go out of their way to honor that whether that be reading out every single special occasion request sent into them, as they did Friday evening, including a couple celebrating their 57th anniversary and a child’s seventh birthday.
This is also obvious in the patience and pleasure Nathan showed posing with fans for photographs post-show in the lobby. There was such a mighty long line of fans, I’d hazard a guess and say the head of the 29-year-old didn’t hit the pillow until the wee hours of this morning. And he still had two high-profile gigs to perform at the National Opera House in Wexford this weeekend, Saturday and Sunday.
As for the song menu Friday evening, it was a crowd-pleasing mix of country and traditional numbers, both soft and sweet, fast and furious, some of which were from his new album, Irish Heartland, his 10th studio album, which features collaborations with maestro balladeer, Finbar Furey, as well as Cherish The Ladies and The High Kings.
Such was the quality of each song Friday, it’s challenge for me to choose my favorites, so while I was thinking I asked my companions. My wife, Columbia, from Romania, chose ‘Grace,’ a beloved ballad written by Frank and Seán O’Meara depicting the life and tragic romance of executed 1916 Irish revolutionary Joseph Plunkett and Grace Gifford. My Donegal friend, Rose, chose (not surprisingly) Home To Donegal. We also decided that others would include the hard-hitting, no-holds-barred, festive ballad by The Pogues, Fairytale in New York, sung as a duet with Douglas; and the medley of Irish classics such as I’ll Tell Me Ma and Rare Ould Mountain Dew. Being as biased as Rose, and Belfast-born, I was touched by Nathan’s full-hearted rendering of Belfast.
Those were the traditional songs, for country music fans there was also some rousing classics such as The Gambler, Thank God I’m A Country Boy and Wagon Wheel.
It was only necessary to gaze around the theatre and see people standing and sitting swaying back and forth holding hands, rockin’ in the aisles and singing the chorus full-voiced to understand what a thoroughly good time they were having.
And probably so will you if you manage to get a ticket.