After a gap of three years Michelle Shocked, folk hero with proto punk and pop leaning, is back in Dublin. Like many before her, she has downgraded to an acoustic performance but this is still a fine evening, split into four distinct parts.The Jim Chayka Trio opened the show, followed by Michelle and her acoustic guitar before the trio came back with her for more songs, complete with interlude of southern country bluegrass. This was all building to a celebration of the Arkansas Traveller album, perhaps a little premature for what she calls the 20th anniversary celebration, but as she descried it in a recent interview it will ‘ensure it’s in full swing by 2012’.
Opening with the personal and touching ‘Memories of East Texas’ she was clearly on fine fettle. ‘Other People’ and ‘Anchorage’ back to back was a true consummate performance with interaction from the singalong crowd. She then informed the audience – in a ‘20 years after the event’ update – that the couple referenced in that song are still alive and well, having recently celebrated their 27th Wedding anniversary, but have moved to Billings, Montana – far less easy to write a romantic anthem to. She also mentioned that the song referenced as the wedding song in Anchorage was ‘The Water Is Wide’ and encouraged the crowd to give a prompted performance of its parent song, the local ‘Carrickfergus’. Onto Arkansas Traveller – ‘Shaking Hands (Soldiers Joy)’ about the effects of morphine from the American Civil War was made to sound timeless, whilst ‘Come A Long Way’ was lively complete with The Supreme’s ‘Stop! In The Name Of Love’ singalong. But for some the real climax of the evening was the final song – a jaw dropping and genuinely moving a capella version of Steve Goodman’s ‘The Ballad of Penny Evans’ dedicated to the memory of promoter Derek Nally. An evening of which he would have definitely approved.