<B>Maura Lights Up New York City</B>
<I>July 31, 2002, New York, New York</I>- Onstage with her band and her hair piled up on her head, Maura OConnell was welcomed back to the Bottom Line in New York City for the first time in several years by an enthusiastic and adoring crowd. Most recently Maura played New York City in March in an under publicized show at an unusual venueor at least unusual for her, BB Kings Blues Clubthat left her on a first name basis with the crowd. At the Bottom Line Maura would have needed a few days to learn everyones name as the early show was packed.
Her wardrobe was typical Maura but a little unusual for a warm and muggy New York evening. If her voice was the air conditioner it was on High Cool all night. If this performance was running the local Con Ed plant the Citys lights were burning bright.
Her voice was stronger than normal and in a few instances one could tell that the sporadic performing of the recent years, (compared to a few years ago) helped preserve the pipes or at least made them sound stronger than ever. These shows were particularly compelling vocally, as noted, but also with the selection of material and the enthusiasm onstage and in the audience. Maura was as charming, funny and insightful as she has ever been.
Maura performed a lot of material from her newest album "Walls and Windows" and mixed in a number of older songs from what she described as her "eight prior albums". Maura managed to mention the bit part shell have in Martin Scorcese 1890s New York City street gang movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio named "The Streets of New York" and also her eponymous website. Her mention of Paul Brady when introducing one of his songs drew applause from the audience but as always Maura also gave attribution and some kind words to all of the wonderful songwriters she interprets.
Ms. OConnell though did not give a lengthy introduction for another song from her new album other than to say it is a "classic piece of folk music" as she launched into Van Morrisons "Crazy Love" which received a very warm response especially since at one point in the song Maura intoned the word "righteous" in the phrase "it makes me righteous" with a Van inflection which was quite humorous to us and I think even more so to her.
While you might think that Dolores Keene has the definitive version of Teddy ONeill, as Maura mentioned in the prelude to that particular song, I think if you canvassed the crowd at the Bottom Line they would have given Maura the nod. We should all be glad that Maura learned that song back in a living room in Ennis from her mother those years ago. However the melancholy of the song was made even more so by knowing that within days of her appearance at the Bottom Line a memorial that was many years in the making opened up at the Battery in NYC specifically addressing the infamous and horrible Irish Potato Famine. Mauras intro to the song spoke of this horrible event and a few miles away sits a quarter acre Irish cottage placed on a angled pedestal with the names and facts of the event that took the lives of millions of Irish people and led to the mass exodus of those needing to flee that country for other lands, many as noted by Maura, never to return again. The Irish Famine Memorial should become a must-see for all.
At one point when introducing "The Irish Blessing" song off the new album one of her band mates made a point for her about the ibiquitousness of the "Blessing" on all things Irish by holding up a rather large dish towel with the Irish Blessing written on it, that he must have found only in Times Square or the South Street Seaport. It was quite funny to see him holding up this silly memento but I guess it will be the souvenir from the gig in NYC.
Ms. OConnells selections included a Bottom Line standby, "Feet of a Dancer", which Maura always manages to do at her Bottom Line shows because it is a favorite of one of the owners who must have daughters, one or more of whom were at the early show. There also was "Slow Train" which Maura manages to make sound fresh whenever she sings it especially with a new duet partner on bass guitar. Maura does not entertain requests from the audience so whoever shouted out song names will certainly not do so next time as Maura mentioned it in a very Maura-nice way.
For the second set or the late show, Maura while doing most of the material from "Walls and Windows", changed around some of the other material. This made for a better night for those who stayed for both shows. The bonus for the late show holdouts was the encore when Maura launched into an a cappella version of "The River is Wide". If anyone truly wants to understand what a tremendous vocal talent Maura OConnell is all that would have to do is to hear that song. It was delivered in a stunningly beautiful way.
It must have been Mauras gift to those in the audience who, as she thanked them, "stayed out late on a school night". It was late since the second show didnt end until nearly 1:00 am but for those who stayed out late on a school night it was well worth it as was catching the opening act, Teddy Thompson, the son of Richard and Linda. There is no doubt that the apple has not fallen far from that tree. Teddy was great and his writing is terrific. It will not be long before Maura is introducing a Teddy Thompson song in a future concert.<BR>
Maura sang with gusto on this particular night at the Bottom Line and her songs rang true to a crowd, which was obviously with her and her material every step of the way.