Chris de Burgh sees red
Following a review in these pages last week, the following letter from Chris de Burghwas sent to our Letters Editor, and has also been widely circulated
Dear Mr Crawley,
I rarely read reviews, but as yours was sitting on my kitchen table, and after three sold-out shows in the Gaiety Theatre, I thought I should have a look at it; after all, receiving a favourable review in The Irish Timesis about as likely as . . . well, receiving a favourable review in The Irish Times!!
I was not disappointed. How the fond memories came flooding back, more than 30 years of them; you must have a Lexicon of Handy Insults, because you managed to use many of the same ones that have been used so many times before, and still they make me smile at their continued lack of imagination. “Small man . . . shudder . . . warbly tenor . . . mawkish balladeer . . . cringe factor . . . squeaky clean . . . snigger . . . cheesy” etc – yes, they were all there, as used by many of your colleagues before, such as Joe Breen (who, I note, has been put out to pasture in the wine section, and I am assured by friends in the wine trade that he knows as much about wine as he did about music – precious little. I wonder what they have in mind for you in your dotage? Searing critiques of primary school Christmas plays perhaps, or judging knife-sharpening competitions in Sligo?).
Being a theatre critic and not a music critic, you must have strayed into the Gaiety by mistake last Monday night, possibly looking for the rear entrance to Neary’s pub, but you certainly arrived with the word “prejudice” burned into your furrowed brow. How it must have galled you to hear the rapturous welcome I received at the start of the show; how you must have writhed at every standing ovation; how you must have cringed at every call of “Chris, we love you”; how you must have felt isolated as the audience rose to their feet as one, singing, dancing and shouting out for more; how you must have growled to yourself as you left, surrounded by so many happy people, to make your curmudgeonly way to the safety of the street outside. You really should look up the word “entertainment” again, you might be surprised to see that it is all about people having a GOOD TIME!! Your churlish review is an insult to all those who enjoyed their night out, and in these days of collapsing newspaper sales and an entire new generation on the way who will get their information online, you may be looking for another job sooner rather than later. Your pals in the pub must have loved your review, but it seems that you are universally loathed in the theatre world. A leading impresario has described you as “puffed up with his own self-importance”, and a much-loved and successful actress refers to you as “that loathsome little turd”. Great accolades, to be sure.
And what of you and your future ambitions? Will you continue to be an occasional critic in a country with the population of Greater Manchester, or are you, like so many of your colleagues, about to write a book/play/film script/biography? If so, I would be delighted to attend the opening/launch/ premiere. To have gone to the Gaiety with your mind made up is unprofessional of course, but to totally ignore what actually happened and launch a personal attack is so transparent that any reader can see that it was pointless even writing it, as you were the only person who attended the show that night who didn’t ACTUALLY WANT TO BE THERE!! As I have always had a very positive attitude towards life, I have sympathy for your position, as it must be so poisonous to have to lurk in the shadows, riffling through the garbage bins of despair and avoiding those who think that you are an irrelevance, an irritation to be ignored and laughed about.
I would be very happy to meet with you and pursue these ideas further, but I suspect that you, like so many others of your kind, would lack the courage, like a dog that snarls and barks from a distance yet cowers and runs away at the first sight of reaction. Anyway, the offer is there.
Finally, whatever happens in your career, let me wish you a long and happy life, all the best,
Chris de Burgh
PS We were wondering by way of explanation and as you seem to portray yourself as a bitter and unfulfilled man, were you much teased by your school chums in the schoolyard and called “Creepy Crawley”? I think we should be told!
Peter Crawley’s original review of Chris de Burgh’s Dublin concert
Chris de Burgh
The stage lights flare and crackle like an electrical storm. Music swells and surges in a crescendo of anticipation. It is an introduction worthy of the second coming, or perhaps the moment in a sci-fi movie when the spaceship door finally opens. Instead, though, a small man appears in suit trousers and a white shirt, giving a little wave, like a businessman happy to have finished a long day of conference calls.
This man is Chris de Burgh. You may have heard of him. The name alone summons a rush of associations, some of which carry a shudder, few of which fail to draw a smile. There is that warbly tenor, the calling card of the mawkish balladeer (“I have never seen that dress you’re wearing . . . ”) which switches at the faintest invitation into a throaty belt: “DON’T PAY THE FERRYMAN!” There is that haircut, long at the back and wispy up front, entirely unruffled by 34 years in the music biz.
And of course there is that cringe factor, unalleviated by the man’s apparent earnestness: his slightly tarnished squeaky clean persona, his claims to heal people with his hands, his indelible association with a time of shoulder pads and enormous hair. In short, it’s easy to snigger at de Burgh. But while he certainly gives us some reason – “I often wonder where religion came from,” goes one introduction, as though he is considering starting one – any embarrassment we feel says more about us than him.
In a set piled high with oldies – Missing You, Spanish Train, Sailing Away, each delivered with cheesy synths and clean guitars – even the newies are throwbacks, cover versions culled from his latest album, Footsteps.What de Burgh brings to Turn, Turn, Turn, All Along The Watchtoweror The Long and Winding Roadis not easy to fathom – everything is transformed into the same MOR mulch.
Nonetheless, de Burgh will routinely pause the show and step forward to bask in his applause. “You have no idea how it feels to stand here, with all this love coming this way,” he tells us. Returning the favour, presumably, he departs the stage for Lady in Red, invading boxes and draping himself over audience members, some of whom have worn red for the occasion. Certain toes will never uncurl after this experience, but it is almost admirable how unaltered de Burgh has remained by the flow of time. You may have grown out of seeking epic significance in the portentous verses of Spanish Train, you may greet Patricia the Stripper with the same mortification as a faded photo of yourself. This is because you’ve changed. Chris de Burgh has not.
First published last Thursday, September 3rd