Sep 22 2008

A Night To Remember John Brogan

Published by at 11:55 am under Blog,Music,Music Review,Night Out,Theatre

John Brogan at the OlympiaLast night was a special event and I am lucky to have been in attendance. John Brogan, stage manager of the Olympia Theatre for over 30 years, celebrated his retirement with an amazing night of music.

Over the years, whether loved or hated by the thousands of acts he told “don’t put that there”, it’s clear that he left an indelible impression on everyone he met, helping bring their performances to life on stage. Many of those performers were delighted to return to the stage last night in his honour.

 

PantiI‘ll admit to being somewhat concerned when the larger than life drag queen, Panti, catwalked onto the stage to MC the proceedings, but I needn’t have worried. Her cynical charm and no bullshit commentary provided the balance the otherwise congratulatory evening required. Flirting with a collection of non responsive performers, she was very much in control of the night.

 

The first act brought on was the Coronas, an unusual but very welcome set. Unusual because they have not had a full performance at the Olympia yet and welcome because I’m a fan and my appetite is now whetted for their night in Greystones Theatre on October 5th. I found myself wondering if they set the tone for the night. I doubted it – and what came next proved it.

 

The Coronas

 

Twink and John BroganPerhaps the only thing more camp than Panti came on next – Twink. Thankfully, she didn’t sing. However, mad as the woman may be, she does give good theatre and her very heartfelt and genuine reminiscence of John Brogan was a note perfectly struck. Funny and warm, she was the ideal person to introduce the man of the hour, John Brogan, to a standing ovation.

Dustin the TurkeyUnfortunately, John was not given the opportunity to regale us with ancient anecdotes, as he was interrupted by a turkey. No, Pat Kenny did not show up, Dustin did. Slight but fun banter swiftly gave way for the return of Panti to introduce one of the beauties of the evening.

 

Francis Black has an Irish angel’s voice and she used it to its fullest performing two of her classics, Christy Hennessy’s All the Lies That You Told Me and the heartbreaking Wall of Tears. Perhaps it did bring a mushy element to the proceedings, but I loved it. Truly beautiful.

 

Brian KennedyNext we saw Brian Kennedy, AKA Mr. Cringe, so much so that I welcomed the distraction of the loud skangers behind me being kicked out of the theatre. He performed You Raise Me Up that brought tears to a lot fo people’s eyes. I was in tears because he seemed to go on forever. He pranced round the stage worse than Daniel O’Donnell. He was Eoin McLove without the humour. The man has a voice, but why he needs to girate his hips while using it is beyond me.

 

Declan O’Rourke may have been a little off form singing Gallileo, but his words about Brogan came from the heart. Brief and poignant, he simply said, “I‘m going to miss him“.

 

The Dubliners

 

This was the first time the remaining members of The Dubliners have come together for a public performance since the passing of Ronnie Drew. Indeed, yesterday was Ronnie’s month’s mind mass. It brought a sombre but respectful note to the evening Barney from The Dublinersand John Sheahan‘s poem to Ronnie made up for in pure emotion what it maybe lacked in eloquence.

The tiny leprechan on a banjo, Bernard ‘Barney‘ McKenna too was a treat. His rendition of The Dubliners classic I Wish I Had Someone to Love Me was one of the highlights of the evening. Overall the four members of The Dubliners (including just two original members) were wondeful, warm, funny and enthusiastic. Having whipped the crowd up, it was a shame the evening took a break after their set.

 

Though Tom Dunne looked surprisingly uncomfortable up on stage, Something Happens got the whole of the Olympia going again. Loud, abrasive and very tight, the eighties/early nineties Irish pop act proved they still have it. The now classic Parachute sounded fresher than ever.

 

Something Happens

 

One surprise of the evening was how fantastic Mary Coughlin was. Looking great and sounding rough and ready, but better than ever she teased us with I Wanna Be Seduced, before bowling me over with a fabulous I Would Rather Go Blind. Ireland’s original cabaret belle is back.

 

Mary Coughlin

One wonders if Declan O’Rourke, Barney McKenna and Sharon Shannon are drinking from the same water supply. Shannon’s diminutive frame came out on stage and we all got our binoculars ready. Her set was more an exercise in showing the band’s prowess than her own. The Penguin was flawless and though not as well received by the audience as some of the Dubliner’s songs, it was, for me, proof that Traditional Irish music isn’t going anywhere.

 

Camille O'SulivanThe ever wonderful, always spectacular, painfully sexy Camille O’Sullivan performed just three tracks, but stole the show as far as I’m concerned. In These Shoes, her perennial signature tune, introduced the band and set the tone. Here was the reason John Brogan did this job for as long as he did – to see truly great performers make the fullest use of his stage, to witness spectacles and to fall in love with the show.

For John, she dedicated Nick Cave’s The Ship Song:

 

 

Brian Whitehead, current manager of the Olympia and just one of the many John has worked with over almost 40 years, brought along Maureen Grant, the bar manager, to present John with a photograph of all the current staff and a Waterford Crystal commemorative bowl. A man of few words, John Brogan was clearly moved as he thanked everyone for making his time in the Olympia great. He begins his speech with “I‘d like to tell Brian Whitehead, I’m not leaving.” Laughter all around, but there was a slight hint of apprehension – afterall, he’s threatened retirement before.

 

John Brogan, Brian Whitehead, Maureen Grant

 

The Fleadh Cowboys, a band who were regulars in the early days of Midnight at the Olympia, finished the night. Their final song, Bob Dylan’s May You Stay Forever Young, was a nice sentiment, but judging by the respect and reverence everyone holds for this great man, I think John Brogan will forever be remembered, fondly and respectfully, as the old man of the Olympia. Have a good and long retirement, John.

 

 

StumbleUpon It!

5 responses so far

5 Responses to “A Night To Remember John Brogan”

  1. Mazon 22 Sep 2008 at 12:59 pm

    Great review of the gig Darren, but I’m not sure this one gig is enough proof that Irish traditional music isn’t going anywhere. You obviously love going to live gigs and your reviews are always excellent but I can’t remember you reviewing a trad gig here…maybe you should go to a few before you write it off. If you want any recommendations let me know, I’ve been a trad fan for as long as I can remember 🙂

  2. Darrenon 22 Sep 2008 at 1:13 pm

    @Maz Thanks for the comment. If you knew where I worked you’d realise that I know better than most that Trad isn’t dead. Sorry if I gave that impression. My point is that today it is very much in the mainstream more than it has been for many years, with artists like Sharon Shannon, Damien Dempsey and Mundy flying up the charts. I love a good trad session, always have.

  3. Darraghon 22 Sep 2008 at 1:58 pm

    Well feck ya anyways, now what the hell can I blog about! Damn you Pinky, damn you to hell!

    😛

    (great summation!)

  4. Mazon 22 Sep 2008 at 2:10 pm

    D’oh!! You meant that it’s not going away, I wrongly thought you meant that it was dead in the water. Am slightly mortified at my “outrage” now ……….*backs away from the keyboard in shamed silence* 😉

  5. seanon 17 Mar 2009 at 5:11 pm

    Hi darren, great review cant believe I’ve only read it now.
    Glad you enjoyed the gig I know I did!!

    My name is Sean Brogan, I am John Brogans son (you can see me in the box beside Dustin, only just).

    I was wondering where you got your photographs from. Did you take them yourself.
    I’ll make sure my father reads your review if he hasnt already!
    He may be interested in some of the pictures

%d bloggers like this: