Music Review: Seven Drunken Nights: The Story Of The Dubliners, Empire Theatre, Liverpool

Image Source: Empire Theatre

Format: Musical
Genre: Musical
Date: April 15 2019
Location: Empire Theatre, Liverpool

Having sampled Seven Drunken Nights last year and loved it, a treat was in store to see it live again in Liverpool.

The backdrop set was of an old-looking Irish bar, with Guinness crates and old lamps. The lads came on stage and began a short medley of familiar Irish songs, Molly Malone being one. The story began with an insight into Dublin many years ago, when work was hard to come by and a lot of men went to the pub for the “craic”. A few would get up and give a song or play a tune. One of the most famous pubs was O’Donoghue’s, and that is where The Dubliners were born.

We were told how the group eventually sold millions of records worldwide and were known as “Ireland’s Favourite Sons”. They appeared on The Late Late Show, and their performance on the programme in 2012 would prove to be their last. We had short snippets early on of Wild Rover and Black Velvet Band, before the show began to formulate proper.

As noted, it all began at O’Donoghue’s, back in 1962 when they first formed. In total, the band has had eleven different members over the years, with Ronnie Drew being one of the founders. We were then invited to join the band for a “session” of typical Irish folk music. Then, we had The Leaving Of Liverpool, and other members were named, amongst them John Molloy, Barney McKenna, Kieran Burke and Luke Kelly.

One of the funniest cast members on stage was Billy Barton, who claimed at various points to be 82, 85 and other ages, and he had the audience laughing at his Irish dancing. However, he had a great voice, and was an accomplished tin whistle player for tunes like All For The Grog.

The band were originally called The Ronnie Drew Ballad Group, before changing to The Dubliners. Several more songs followed that were typical of the Irish scene at the time. Another pub proved to be a popular hangout for the group sessions at The Royal Hotel, and we were treated to a version of McAlpine’s Fusiliers.

In the second half, old photographs flashed up on the stage, and the group continued to tell the story of The Dubliners. Many more songs followed, which diehards were all too familiar with. Their tales were poignant, authentic and often amusing. The Dubliners would go on to appear at London Palladium, and they performed perhaps their most famous song, Seven Drunken Nights, which had been banned in Ireland.

Another great rendition came for Finnegan’s Wake, which Billy gave a great account of, followed by a lovely and moving song, In The Town I Loved So Well. The evening came to an end with an emotional performance of The Fields Of Athenry, along with a lively finale of tunes like Whisky In The Jar, Irish Rover and, finally, Molly Malone: “cockles and mussels, alive alive oh!” At this point, the whole audience were up, clapping and dancing along. It was a great end to a very good night.

Once again, Seven Drunken Nights proved to be a must-see show for any fans of The Dubliners or of Irish music in general. It was very soulful, with beautiful voices that were emotional and authentic. All in all, a great show.

Overall Rating: 9/10 – Outstanding