Dan O’Connell, 17 June 1998

The phrase that springs to mind after the Deborah Conway performance at the Dan is “what a blast!”
The first surprise in store was a confident and skilled performance on vocals and guitar from Sally Dastey (Tiddas). Despite a confession to being a bit nervous, Sally’s infectious smile and easygoing manner injected a good feeling into the place. I’ll certainly be adding her on my “must see” list of local performers.
After what seemed like an hour, with the room temperature rising to what felt like about 30 degrees, Deborah, Willy and band finally made their way up on stage. The icebreaker for the evening was “Evil Homer” (first time I’dever heard it), after which Deborah suggested that the performance would consist of her lesser known songs. I vaguely remember her saying that it was going to be an “unfriendly gig” (but I could be mistaken). The other band members were Peter Farnan on guitars and keyboards, with Bill McDonald on bass.
As it’s been suggested that I verge on the obsessive about guitars and playing etc, I’ll venture into unchartered waters and say that it was a predominantly brown evening as far as clothing was concerned. Willy provided a bright splash of colour in a pair of bright orange pants and blue-patterned white shirt (now that’s my kind of colour coordination).
Now for the obsessive bit. Considering I spent the whole show hemmed in under one of the PA speakers I don’t feel I can make an objective opinion about the sound, but it seemed a bit muddy in my estimation.
Willy’s exceptional playing on a lovely old Epiphone semi-acoustic (Riviera?) through an equally lovely Fender Vibrolux Reverb (the guitar amplifier of champions) was frequently barely audible amongst the rest of the sound. Despite this, what I did manage to hear did not disappoint.
What I didn’t hear from Willy was augmented by some really great guitar playing by Peter Farnan on a Fender Telecaster and an absolutely delectable sounding Rickenbacker electric 12 string. Amongst the “Rickenbacker highlights” for me were “Madame Butterfly” and “Release Me”. Peter’s keyboard playing was minimalist but very effectively added colour to the songs. Mind you, how anyone can play in a suit under such sweltering conditions is beyond me.
Bill McDonald provided some solid and innovative bass playing during the evening and I particularly enjoyed the sounds he got using effects pedals. Personally I think real bass players and drummers sound so much better than backing tapes, plus they smile a lot more.
Due to the fact that they’d only had one reheasal that afternoon (and possibly sore fingers as a result), the playing during the performance was ever so slightly loose. I didn’t think that backing tapes in addition to extra musicians worked all that well (apparently they couldn’t get a real drummer for the gig).
Nevertheless, Deborah and co easily made up this shorfall with infectious on-stage camaraderie, some hitherto unheard of songs, comical banter and an all-round fun performance. My endorphin levels didn’t subside until well into Sunday.
Memorable DC quotes were (to the best of my memory:
“I’m wearing my guitar strap a little lower this evening. It’s always nice to do things a bit differently.”
(in between songs) “Are you tuning up Willy? You’re so old fashioned”
(after finishing “Interzone”) “I guess that marks the beginning of divorce procedings against My Third Husband.”
Tim Hackett

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