The Pale @ Annesley House, North Strand. 17/12/2005

Dropped into the Annesley House on Saturday night to witness the second coming of the well established live reputation of that ever popular late 80’s and early 90’s musical phenomenon around Dublin and further a field called The Pale. It was a cracking carefully crafted performance from the three musicians on stage who clearly take their job to entertain very seriously, to a full house with many of the original cult following in attendance.

Nowadays, original members Shane Wearen on Mandolin’s and Electric Fiddle, Matthew Devereux on Vocals, small bodied Taylor Acoustic Guitar, Drum Loops and Samples are joined by multi instrumentalist singer songwriter producer Jimmy Nail look-alike Colm Querney son of the excellent blues bass man and vocalist  John Querney.

Its a high energy well structured in yer face fused brew of amazing musical styles and traditions, Eastern Block Folk, Ska, Mod, Urban Reggae, R&B, Northside Blues literally something for everyone in the audience all topped off by the funny antics and humour of Coolock front man Matthew Devereux.

Matthews’s strong lyrical epics of life on the Northside have become anthems for the audience delivered on a bed of very diverse innovative, instrumental textures and big chorus sections with each number getting straight to the point. Matthew is a natural on stage, charismatic, jumping around the stage demanding the audience’s attention looking like the amphetamine popping hip hopping over opinionated Jimmy the Mod from Quadrophenia.

Very much mavericks in the cradle of Dublin’s scene first time around and way ahead of their time Shane Wearen ushered in a whole new style of music for the mandolin and demonstrates on stage the vast possibilities of the mandolin with his dazzling virtuosity, melody, harmony, complex vocabulary and combination of styles flourishing even more proficiently after the dark years in between.

In the same way that The Chieftains draw on the styles that grew from the  roots of various cultural musical traditions, The Pale’s music draws you in with the same warmth and immediacy in Mandolin maestro Shane’s  expansion of that often subdued instruments repertoire.

Adding some new fingerprints to The Pale sound on stage was Colm Querney on spidery bass played very much like a lead rather than rhythm  accompaniment alternating with an acoustic guitar played with a subtle, nimble wrist movement creating layers of compelling minor rhythms full of fresh rootsie variety and colour and great rhythm flexibility.

The rebirth of The Pale is in full blossom with a growth spurt honed by experience and time where the members now collaboratively take chances and push the music in new directions and let the beauty of the old songs shine through beautifully with the myriad of cultural influences present seeping into the mix like osmosis. As poet Brendan Kennelly puts it:

“All songs are living ghosts that long for a living voice”.

Crowd favourites like Small Town, Good Ship, Final Garden and Church of Bones are tastefully arranged contemporary grooves of neo spirituality and themes, like the pre Celtic tiger economic desperation and emigration and teenage migration, that seen Matthew spinning around to his mates in Coolock on his BMX only to be informed that they were settled in Australia and Germany and other far flung destinations in search of a future with potential, lyrics written with a real and potent ability creating vivid interpretations of the human landscape around him. In his lyrics as  subjective as words can be is friendship and hope challenged by the unsweetness of life and the horrors of hypocrisy in the need to have faith in something bigger than ourselves yet the disillusionment with clericalism on the ground floor. On stage Matthew has an expressionism that is full of gestures giving his words power, real introspection and virility not afraid of ridiculing himself, grabbing the attention, challenging the witty hecklers with intensity in his performance.

If you like to wander into the musically unexpected every now and then, The Pale will satisfy your needs that’s for sure. Check out their site for gigs in Carlow, Galway and Mullingar and I’m sure it won’t be long before they are back in the Annesley House again.

“This is such a small town
Someday you will find out
But you won’t hear it from my mouth
But it happened hear be in no doubt
Right here in this small town”