Chris de Burgh
The eccentric Irish crooner gives The Prodigy a run for their money - but doesn't forget the ladies in red
Two hours and 45 minutes of Chris de Burgh might sound like a bit much, but leave your preconceptions at the door. The man puts on a cracking show.
The first half of the Belfast Waterfront concert is structured around de Burgh’s new double album, Moonfleet and Other Stories, a concept piece based on J Meade Falkner’s classic tale of smuggling, set amongst the cliffs, caves and downs of Dorset.
Fittingly, the stage is decked out like a ship, with rigging, barrels and a wooden helm providing the backdrop for de Burgh and band, who sport pirate-style outfits, thankfully stopping short of eyepatches and blacked-out teeth.
The singer’s reverb-drenched tones bring the surprisingly heavy Moonfleet material to life, some of which wouldn’t be out of place on a latter-day Black Sabbath album. One fan, a lady in the front row, is having trouble containing her excitement. ‘I’ll have whatever she’s having,’ jokes de Burgh.
The Argentinean-born Irish muso has clearly thrown a lot of money at the production. You suspect he needn’t have bothered. He could probably just have turned up with an acoustic guitar, trotted out the hits, and the audience would have gone home happy.
So, the seemingly tireless 62-year-old is to be applauded for putting in this much effort, even if the smoke, lasers and video screens might be more at home at a Prodigy gig.
‘Where’s Patricia?’ someone shouts from the balcony, referring to de Burgh’s saucy 1975 number ‘Patricia the Stripper’. He doesn’t play it, but we do get the vintage gems ‘Don’t Pay the Ferryman’ – about negotiating passage across the River Styx – and a drawn-out ‘High on Emotion’, which has more false endings than The Lord of the Rings.
De Burgh, who wields a rhythm guitar for much of the set, also throws in a short unplugged segment, and a cover of ‘Africa’ by Toto.
But the highlight is ‘The Lady in Red’, with de Burgh tinkling the ivories. Halfway through, he goes walkabout in the crowd, dancing with any ladies he encounters that have come to the show wearing the requisite colour, and landing in a few of their laps. He’s a brave man to take on this lusty mob, and you wonder if this is a part of the night he dreads or looks forward to.
Throughout, the patently eccentric crooner delivers quirky banter about Blackbeard, Leonardo da Vinci and Stonehenge, amongst other off-the-wall topics. It’s also interesting to note how many songs concern modes of travel (‘Ship to Shore’, ‘A Spaceman Came Travelling’, 'Spanish Train’).
As the evening draws to a close, a fan brings de Burgh a gift – an enormous block of fudge. ‘I used to smoke this stuff, but now I eat it,’ laughs the oddball star. ‘But don’t quote me on that!’ Too late.