New York, NY, May 21, 2004 Through the many years singer Maura O'Connell has been visiting New York and blessing those lucky audience members with her vocal prowess, the venerable Bottom Line has been the venue of choice, with one notable exception being the more punkish Bowery Ballroom, when Maura visited town with Jerry Douglas, Russ and others in a troupe show there. Now that NYU has seen to the shuttering of the Bottom Line Maura needed a new home to come to, to play songs from and promote her terrific new Album "Don't I Know", recently released on the Sugar Hill label.
Well, the new club called Satalla is interesting to say the least and the treasure of Ennis, County Clare by way of Nashville (for many years), blew into NYC to perform at the club, which is not even a year old, and performed superbly Friday night. The club with its neon day glow-colored walls and black lighting takes a little getting used to and the sound needs some tweaking but the vibe and ambience is cool and the stage real close to the audience. Maura was in great form and connected with the audience which seem to hang on every song. Many from the new Album and other classics.
Highlights of the show included fine live versions of new songs such as "Didn't I", "Phoenix Falling", "Hold On", "Spinning Wheel", "Trip Around the Sun" and "There's No Good Day for Dying". That last very poignant song made one think of another fine performer who not too long ago put out his last record before succumbing to cancer, Warren Zevon. One couldn't find two singers with more disparate voices (and vocal ability) than Maura and Mr. Zevon, but their sensibility for a good song and delivering it with passion is but one similarity. Come to think of it, Maura's new album with its "sad-song" feel reminds you of Mr. Zevon's "The Wind", with some of its songs about death and dying. It is fair to say there is "no good day for dying".
During the middle of the show Maura dipped into favorites like "Blue Train", "Summerfly", "Walls" "Western Highway" and "Stories", and rendered justice to them all. The last song before the encore was the "Irish Blessing" which Maura introduced by pointing out how the song fits so many different ocassions like funerals or weddings, or even recently Jerry Douglas's' son's commncement exercise.
The encore began with a beautiful rendition of Nancy Griffith's "Trouble in the Fields", which Maura mentioned was somewhat aprosos of her sister who was married to a farmer back in Ireland. A personal favorite is Maura singing Van Morrison's "Crazy Love", truly, as Maura says, a timeless folk song, "as good 30 years ago as 30 years from now." Van should be very happy with his countrymate's handling of his material.
The band was very tight and would have sounded even better with improved handling of the microphones which should come in time. Satalla will be "on the rotation" as it seems to be booking acts that might have performed at the Bottom Line plus a huge repertoire of World sounds. It must be pointed out that the club did advertise Maura as a "Singer Songwriter", but Maura forgave them and pointed out not everyone has to write songs, "and some who do,--- shouldn't". Maura handled a poor bloke with a large voice and a long list of his requests, with her Irish "charm", (lucky for him not to get on her bad side, I think.) All in all --a tremendous night in a new venue in Manhattan for a true Irish/Tennessee treasure who we all hope comes back to town real soon.
(As a postscript-- I do miss the Bottom Line especially at their bar buying a round or two for Zane and Richard. Maura probably doesn't miss the twice nightly shows there however.)