That was Moving Hearts

  • 30 November 1984
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Tonight there were several hundred people in the band. A very very big co-op for the last performance of the co-op band.

8.10 and some of the lads are waiting to squeeze between the speakers and go out onto the stage of the National Boxing Stadium for the last Moving Hearts concert. Eoghan O'Neill is slapping any back or arm he can reach and half-whooping, halfflaughing, "And I hope none of you enjoy yourselves tonight!" A roar as they squeeze through, and appear out front, the usual tuning up and feeddback that sounds like a couple of ships docking, and into the first instrumenntal. Flo McSweeney is standing in a passageway off to the side, flexing her lim bs like the ring is up tonight and she's going fifteen with Barry McGuigan.

The "goodbye tour" is over, the long swansong almost done, tonight Moving Hearts winds up. The band evolved, changed personnel, fronted first by Christy Moore, then Mick Hanly, now Flo McSweeney. All the members are back together tonight for the big one, the Last Reel, except Declan Sinnott.

McSweeney gets a cheer when she enters, sings "Bridge of Dreams", about the kids living rough in Dublin. Her voice was never made for the anger and irony needed for these kind of songs, but makes up for it in vocal skill.

8.30pm and Mick Hanly comes out and-to another cheer, a few youngsters are down front, two or three of them, dancing it up. All around the stadium are gentlemen with arms as long and thick as a politician's wallet, the kind of guys who look like they've had their own gigs at the stadium on less musical occasions. They don't ask the kids to sit down, they sit them down. It looks a bit fierce but it's for their own good.

Christy. And they're raising the roof.

"How's it goin?"

Into "Faithful Departed ", the crowd join in. Then a Hearts' version of Christy Moore's hit "Ride On". The P A is fuzzy for the first few bars, there's feedback, and the whole thing is a bit of a mistake, given the quality of Moore's original version. McSweeney and Hanly join in and it's an enjoyable enough singalong for the night that's in it, but no more. Then into the Bobby Sands song, "I Wish I Was Back Home In Derry", and what's left of the roof is blown away. This could be the climax of the night. Any number of songs could be the climax, but it's only starting.

"Before The Deluge", Moore, McSweeney and Hanly vocalising. "Let Somebody Know". It's the kind of band where you look at Donal Lunny directing things with a snap of the fingers or a smile and know he's what holds the thing together, gives the solid base to the band. Then Davy Spillane finishes a whirling solo on the pipes and you know that his sound is central to everything. And Eoghan o 'Neill does a run across the stage, laughing, bumping, a pinball bouncing off the others, cracking out a bassline, and you know you have to say someething about how he welds things. And Keith Donald's saxophone does someething cuddly around a vocal line ... and that's before you get to percusssion, guitar or vocals, and you'd want to know a lot more about the dynaamics of music before you could suggest what it is that makes the combination sound so good - forget for a minute about the lyrics and the commitment and the politics, they sound so good - and all you know is that there's a great sense of good people doing good work.

Then the man from WEA is presennting the platinum disc and he gets some applause and some obscenities from other sections of the crowd, maybe because they don't want any record executives interrupting things, maybe because there's a general perrception that financial stringencies are forcing the band out of existence and the money-wielders in the business could have kept things going if they wanted to and here's one of them trying to be friendly. The platinum disc is raffled off for the Red Cross and it -goes to someone from Drummcondra.

Donal Lunny introduces "a rake of tunes . . . a buncha jigs" and the gentlemen with the big arms have a lot more work to do. There's dancing in the seats, in the aisles. Here and there you can see invisible guitars being played. The gentlemen hold the line, just.

Someone announces that Nicky Kelly is here and there's a cheer for that and it's into "Open Those Gates". Mick Hanly sings a song about the band and in the gap between that and the next song the chant goes up, "We wanna dance, we wanna dance!" Then

Mick and Christy alternate vocals on "All I Remember", sometimes forrgetting for a bar or two who's on next, and it's into "Hiroshima Nagasaki Russian Roulette" and that's when the dam breaks and there are hundreds of people rushing down to the front of the stage, the aisles are packed with bopping figures, they're dancing in the seats and on the seats, they're up on one another's shoulders. And for the rest of the night, the next 45 minutes or so, a minority stay in their seats, the band and the audience are one, it's just one big band riding on the music.

Tonight there are hundreds in the band.

After "Hiroshima" Donal Lunny says, "If you're dancing watch out for the people around you, be careful and no one will be hurt." The gentlemen with the big arms give up, shrug, smile, and between anxious glances here and there join in the hand clapping.

No breaks, no interval, straight through, and at I 0.20 Christy Moore is fanning other band members with a towel, the sweat dripping off his own smiling face. Someone has a rose wrapped in clear plastic, passes it through the crowd to the front. All around, dozens of fingers gesture to the rose and Flo picks it up. I 0.30 it's over, thank you for coming tonight, and the band leave. Back for the obliigatory encore. A guy near the front does something physically impossible and erupts across several heads onto the stage. He hugs Christy Moore and the gentlemen with the arms get some overtime. 10.45, finish. As the crowd roars for more a guy with a flashlight frantically signals the control box at the back, shouting "Are you bleeding asleep!" The houselights come on. The crowd continues roaring. Taped music begins playing. Terry O'Neill, backroom boy, comes out and tells the guy with the flashlight to get the lights out again, the band is coming back.

After a while someone else says diffferent. The flashlight waves again, the guy draws a finger across his throat. The volume of the taped music is raised. The crowd's chant for more raises in turn to drown it out. Five minutes pass. The band come back. Fair play to you, says Christy Moore to the crowd. Into "Hiroshima" again. The crowd in front of the stage looks like a nervous hedgehog, all the arms raised and waving. I 0.55 "Hirooshima" blazes to an end and the half-

Eoghan 0 'Neill and Keith Donald. second of silence before the roar of the crowd is the full stop for Moving Hearts.

Thank you, and goodnight. They're young yet. Something special ended tonight, but the people who made it special will be there a long time. The music alone would have been enough, the commitment, the politics, were woven into it, part of it, moved the heart as well as tapping the foot. Those of you who weren't there will have to wait for the reunion. •