As this blog title suggests, Sharon Corr (fiddle and keyboard player, songwriter and backing vocalist of Dundalk’s pride and joy, The Corrs) played a one-off Irish date in the O’Reilly theatre Dublin, as part of her co-headline mini tour with singer-songwriter Vonda Shepard.
I’m a Hard-Corr fan since the 90s so there was no way I was going to miss this show despite not knowing anything about Vonda Shepard, apart from the fact that she’s married to one of The Corrs’ producers Mitchell Froom. Froom produced their 1999 live MTV Unplugged album and their 2004 album Home. Home famously signalled the 10 year hiatus of The Corrs but left their audience with the assurance that Irish music was at the centre of their hearts, with its beautiful recordings of Irish songs selected from their late mother’s songbook. Froom went on to produce Sharon’s second solo album The Same Sun, released in 2013.
Vonda Shepard stepped onto the stage in Dublin with Sharon Corr to an uproarius applause. Backed by Vonda’s long-term backing band of notable American musicians (her guitarist James Ralston was also Tina Turner’s axe-man of choice), the duet pumped out an upbeat number, followed by a giddy and almost school-girl like explanation of how their unlikely friendship came to be. It was clear to all that the two were musical besties and Vonda’s extroverted big laugh filled the room and put everyone at ease. Sharon gracefully left the stage and let Vonda warm us up- a tough job considering she was playing to a Corr majority audience on home turf- the guy next me was wearing a rare 1999 In Blue album t-shirt! I thought she did a remarkable job and her talent left the room spellbound. Her soaring voice and dexterous piano skills were a joy to behold.
Sharon rejoined her onstage after a short interval, and soon after, started her own set. Opening with (my personal favourite) from The Same Sun “We Could Be Lovers”, the palm-muted clean electric guitar riff reminding us that Sharon is not a one trick Irish pony and loves to rock out. Her sultry voice rang clear in the quiet verses and soared through the dynamic chorus, perfectly executed by Corrs’ long-term FOH sound engineer Max Bisgrove. When the crowd settled, Sharon gave vivid context of her next song “The Same Sun” and explained how it came to be. It was lovely to hear such anecdotes, it’s something you just don’t get if you buy the album 3 years after its release (guilty as charged!). She continued her opening set with another track from the album “Take A Minute”.
Returning to her roots, “Cooley’s Reel” (recorded for her first solo album Dream of You 2009) snapped us out of our content dreamy reviere. Vonda’s backing band simply kicked butt backing up Sharon, watching her intently for cues. They looked like they were seriously enjoying themselves and her drummer looked particularly enthused, reminding me of the passion and groove of Irish drummer Jason Duffy.
With excitement running high, Sharon brought us back to The Same Sun with the lushious “Upon an Ocean”, followed by Seán Ó Riada’s “Mná na hEireann” (masterfully recorded for her first album with a raptorous guitar solo by Jeff Beck). I have to say the live version was exquisite, Sharon simply wowed us with her grace and emotion expressed through her violin.
Vonda returned to the stage and the two ripped through a bundle of covers “Woodstock” (Joni Mitchell), “Dreams” (Fleetwood Mac, though famously covered by The Corrs), “Weather With You” (Crowded House) and “Son of a Preacher Man” (Dusty Springfield). Sharon shared the stage with Vonda for Corrs’ numbers “Radio” (written by Sharon), their version sounding a lot closer to the Unplugged acoustic version rather than the electronic-y poppier In Blue cut. I personally found their version to be particularly special. The acoustic guitar is just so good and I was glad to see James Ralston stay true to it. “Full Circle” and “So Young” closed her set, and the audience politely rose from their seats for a little dance and clap- The Corrs always had a super polite audience and everyone in the O’Reilly theatre was careful not to obscure the view of the person behind them, how nice is that?!
Sharon gave us an insight into her own personality and voice as a songwriter, one that tends to shy away from the Corrs mic. While I always prefer The Corrs united and rate Sharon’s first album higher than her second, I feel I understand her artistry a little better now. She’s clearly a modern woman with opinions, views and feelings and isn’t afraid to share them through her music and you can’t disrespect that. It was lovely to see her enjoying herself and she clearly gravitated towards Vonda’s witty banter and wide smile- the unlikely pair made for a heartwarming friendship and reminded me that friendships made through music are simply the best ones.
Good luck recording your third album Sharon! Hopefully see you with The Corrs soon.