Friday night, and the mood in the Academy was one of triumph, of communion between audience and artist. CMAT was playing a fantastic set to a devoted crowd, each song eliciting delight, mass singalongs and spontaneous outbreaks of dancing. The support act, an exciting two piece going by the name of Soft Launch, had announced during their earlier set that CMAT’s debut album, If My Wife New I’d be Dead, had gone to number one in the Irish album charts that very day. It didn’t look like the attendees needed another reason to celebrate, but they weren’t going to pass one up all the same. ‘Number One!’ was the chant that greeted CMAT when she took the stage.
A remarkably talented, assured and likeable performer, she commanded the stage with good-humoured authority and her backing band served up a most appealing, country-inflected pop confection. This was the first gig I’d attended since before all that Coronavirus unpleasantness, and it set the bar pretty high. I hadn’t seen such genuine affection radiate from an audience since I was lucky enough to attend a John Prine concert in the National Concert Hall in Dublin back in the carefree days of 2018. It was a nice reward for all this running I’ve been doing. I managed to hit the eighteen kilometre mark this week. It seems to be going to plan, but there’s a lot of work to get through. I’m thinking of trying to raise money for Pieta (formerly Pieta House), an organisation that does amazing work, by finishing this godforsaken marathon.
My weekend of culture continued with a trip to the Gate Theatre so see Danya Taymor’s production of Samuel Beckett’s Endgame on Saturday. While there was no chanting to greet Frankie Boyle and Robert Sheehan onto the stage, they both gave engaging, darkly comic performances and were impressively supported by Gina Moxley and Sean McGinley. It was my first time attending a Beckett play, and it was as absurd, bleak and funny as I had expected it to be. A totally different experience to the previous night at the Academy, and not as immediately accessible as a CMAT banger, but an interesting and enriching couple of hours, nonetheless. As I left the Gate and stepped into one of those Spring deluges that Dublin does so well, it struck me that the previous twenty-four hours had seen me spend more time in the company of strangers than I had in a couple of years, and it had been lovely.
There had been so much worry about the return to socialising after Covid-19 enforced restrictions that it was impossible not to feel some apprehension when planning the trips to the gig and the theatre on consecutive nights. But once at the venues and engrossed in the performances, it had felt entirely normal. Well, as normal as a CMAT gig or a Samuel Beckett play could feel. There were some audience members donning masks at both shows, though considerably fewer at the gig in the Academy. While this may have caused some understandable trepidation amongst those justifiably still concerned about catching the Coronavirus, it at least meant that the sense of delight that was prevalent in the room was easily transmitted between strangers by the wide smiles plastered across every visible face. It’s obviously a calculated risk to be out and about, but at this stage, at my age and with all the vaccines had, I think it’s worth it.