Ciaran Lavery live at CQAF
Dearly beloved, singer-songwriter Ciaran Lavery’s gentle, understated yet canonic rise has come as no surprise to those who recognised a unique talent when he ‘went solo’ a few years back, having departed the good ship Captain Kennedy.
Good news travels fast. Within a few years, by 2014, the self-effacing artist may have been somewhat taken aback to find that his first album ‘Not Nearly Dark’ and ‘Kosher’ EP had chalked up over 29 million hits worldwide on Spotify – with the natural ease of songs like ‘Left For America’ and ‘Shame’ streamlining that meteoric blaze.
In his native Northern Ireland that came as no real surprise. Lavery was garnering attention and reaping a following on the local scene, with intimate gigs in places like The Barge, or as artist-in-residence for Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival 2015.
He must have been on his best behaviour for they invited him back for the launch of his latest album, ‘Let Bad In’.
Like the prodigal returned, there’s no better place to let bad in than a church I guess, according to chapter and verse. Therein may be the rub, for Lavery’s voice suggests angelic purity – with a built-in contradiction – that suggestive, grainy undertone, that wants to let bad in.
Ironically, therein seems to be the theme – a hint at the desired rejection of childhood guilelessness; to move beyond songs of innocence and early reminiscence to a more grown-up sense of wonder.
Photo © Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival 2016.
The pews are packed; as you’d expect. In Their Thousands come to pay their respects (that’s the support act for the evening). Harmonies of seraphic proportions harken and herald – such beautiful sounds.
Although Lavery’s album is not yet available, they were queuing up to pre-order in the vestibule. ‘Let Bad In’ will do good things.
Lavery sings ‘Let Bad In’ a capella and causes chills.
‘Return To Form’ has already received a fair whack of air play. It contains a certain ‘bad word’. He sings it once, twice, thrice, without wincing. Artistic integrity clearly requires staying true to the song in original form – and Lavery was born an original singer.
From where I sit, Ciaran Lavery doesn’t give the impression of having a bad bone in his body. Flanked by Rachel Boyd on keyboards and violin, with Dan McCullough on guitar, my curious eye is drawn repeatedly to that angry looking eagle on the altar – a permanent fixture (why’s it have to look so mean?). Everyone else is in a good form. There’s a peaceful easy feeling airborne, even the flowers arrangements waft delicate sweetness. Outside, it’s not nearly dark. He sings that the skies turn navy blue, just as they do, through the arched windows.
St George’s Church is an ideal location for Lavery and the ‘Let Bad In’ launch. Pew psychology kicks in. It’s reverential – none of this irksome chattering that can murk the experience in licensed premises.
These are indeed songs of innocence and experience – a hankering back to the simplicity of childhood and a voyage of discovery that clicked in aged fifteen, that awkward post-pubescent meandering.
Lavery is a gifted lyricist – finding the big truths in the simple things, reminiscent of the blessed trinity of Williams (Blake, Wordsworth and The Bard).
A fair share of familiar favourites from ‘Not Nearly Dark’ and ‘Kosher’ rub shoulders with the promising ‘Let Bad In’. ‘Return To Form’ is an outstanding song. ‘Left For America’ and ‘Shame’ are old friends.
He’s not exactly a sing-a-long sort of artist but ‘Orphan’ bucks that trend and so the Lavery faithful have a chance to join in with that universal chorus – the ‘woooooooo o o o woooo ooo o o o wooooo wo woo’ word (I think I got that right). Wonderful, rousing stuff.
They came, they saw, they left, suitably elevated and all the better for having spent a Friday night in Church. Wouldn’t it be nice if…
‘Let Bad In’ is available from 27th May 2016 and from ciaranlaverymusic.com/.