Commitments back, loud and proud

 

COULD THERE possibly be a better time for Dublin to rekindle its love affair with the world’s hardest-working band?

In 1991, a modest little film adaptation of Roddy Doyle’s story about a motley Dublin soul band became a cornerstone of modern Irish identity and burgeoning self-belief. Twenty years later the original cast of The Commitmentsreturned with a triumphant, nostalgia-tinged performance at a packed O2 on Saturday night.

The cast have travelled very different paths since they first found fame, from unlikely Oscar- winning success in the case of Glen Hansard to varied musical and acting careers for the likes of Andrew Strong, Bronagh Gallagher and Angeline Ball.

This anniversary reunion tour, which also saw concerts in Castlebar, Killarney and Belfast, saw the quasi-fictional covers band raise funds for the Irish Cancer Society and offer a flashback to a formative era in our recent history.

A lot might have changed in the intervening two decades, but both then and now, the band offer a soulful soundtrack to a country blighted by recession.

Fiona Ryan and Barry Dolan travelled from Monaghan to catch the show.

“It was recession Ireland back then and that time has come around again, so it’s great to have them back,” says Ryan. “We’re huge fans of the movie. You mightn’t think we were old enough, but we were all teenagers back then when it came out, and it was such a huge thing.”

How would the characters from the movie have changed since then? “They’d be older, wiser . . . and poorer,” says Dolan, without missing a beat.

Andy and Mary Murray travelled in from Celbridge for the gig and the desire to see an old friend on stage. “I used to work with [drummer] Dick Massey in Clondalkin before he did the movie,” says Andy.

“They give everyone a lift – with St Patrick’s Day and the rugby and now this, everyone’s on a bit of a high. People seem to have found a bit of positivity again. I only hope it won’t be 20 years before we see them again.”

Robert Arkins, aka Jimmy Rabbitte, got the evening off to a rousing start with a rendition of Treat Her Right,before handing frontman duties over to Strong, who seems to have lost none of Deco Cuffe’s brash self-confidence, or vocal ability, in the intervening decades.

Singing plaudits had to be shared with Bronagh Gallagher, outstanding on songs such as Bye Bye Babyand I Never Loved a Man, while Dave Finnegan, Angeline Ball and of course Glen “Outspan” Hansard, fresh from a St Patrick’s Day appearance at the White House, each took the lead for a few numbers.

Ken McCluskey on bass, Michael Aherne on keyboards, Dick Massey on drums and Félim Gormley on sax all got moments in the spotlight, while the 17-strong band was rounded out with some of the musicians who played on the original albums.

“Olé, olé, olé,” sang the crowd at the end, another reference to those heady days in the early 1990s when we felt the world was within our grasp. Roddy Doyle has suggested that he is considering revisiting these characters, but it would be difficult to craft a better sequel than this.