Christy’s Life on the Road: It’s a crying shame they didn’t call it The Bodhrán Identity

TV: Much like Christy Moore, this film is rambling, loquacious and brimming with charm

Christy's Life on the Road – it's obviously a crying shame they didn't call it The Bodhrán Identity – is a documentary fashioned in the image of its subject. It's rambling, loquacious and brimming with charm, but to get the most from it you need to be a true believer. Christy Moore agnostics may find it slightly meandering and, at 90 minutes, at least three times as long as it needs to be.

Yet Mark McLoughlin’s film (RTÉ One, Wednesday, 9.35pm), shot in the before times of 2016, has also, and for obvious reasons, acquired an unexpected poignancy. Live music,without the requirement to social distance, is now a fast-fading memory.

And so Life on the Road has the quality of a time capsule. Remember when we could all pile into a venue together, singing, shouting and filling their air with our exhalations and exultations? Was it a dream?

Christy Moore, in holding a mirror up to Ireland in his music, has allowed us to accept ourselves for who and what we are

Moore comes across much as you would expect as the director accompanies him on pit stops at some of his favourite venues. He starts at Live at the Marquee, in Cork, where Moore has been a fixture for more than a decade. There are also visits to his spiritual homeland of Lisdoonvarna – he should write a tune about it some day – and across the sea to the Barrowland Ballroom, in Glasgow.


On stage and off, the singer has perfected the art of being Christy Moore. "I'd be feeling nervous," he admits backstage in Cork – adding that it is those very jitters that often drive him on. Later, he and his frequent collaborator Declan Sinnott compare notes. "We broke a string … your guitar broke down," says Moore. "Nancy Spain saved the day once again."

Nancy Spain is a torch song by Barney Rush that Moore has made his own. Life on the Road is packed with many similar examples of Moore’s ear for a gem, including Ride On and the old Planxty ballad The Hackler from Grouse Hall, performed in the living room of a cottage in Northern Ireland.

Moore, true to his humble reputation, makes no great claims for his oeuvre. It falls to Sinnott to sing his praises. And to explain that Moore, in holding a mirror up to Ireland in his music, has allowed us to accept ourselves for who and what we are. “He’s completely Irish. He’s hugely Irish and he carries it with him. I’m a townie from Wexford. And he’s helped me with that view of myself.”

Later, after their gig in Glasgow, they reflect on the demands of life as jobbing musicians. Both shake their heads at the idea of Bruce Springsteen playing three hours every evening. And Moore expresses amazement at Bob Dylan’s fortitude. “Doing 23 dates in 32 nights. I couldn’t do that,” he says. There is a pause and a shrug. “Still,” he adds, “we’re doing what we’re doing.”