We arrived in Dublin on a Sunday evening, and the first order of business was finding dinner and some Guinness. The Hairy Lemon proved to be an ideal spot for both, and a delicious meal of bangers and mash was enough to help me put an exhausting day of road and air travel behind me. Monday was an off day, so we played tourist and walked a full 10 miles around the city: Dublin Castle, St. Patrick's Cathedral (where Gulliver's Travel's author Jonathan Swift was once Dean and Handel played the Messiah for the first time), Ha'Penny Bridge, more Guinness at the legendary Temple Bar and a charming Victorian pub called The Long Hall. Before the show on Tuesday, we hit up "The Dead Zoo," Dublin's Natural History Museum, which has the most amazing collection of taxidermy from around the world I've ever seen. I was in heaven.
The gig that night was a fun and rowdy one. Whereas English audiences were quiet and reserved, the Dublin audience was boisterous and loud. The bar was inside the theater rather than the lobby (a characteristic that I noticed at all the Irish dates), which I suspect helped fuel the more spirited atmosphere. The next night in Kilkenny, we played a cute little theater straight out of a storybook. The great American songwriter John Murry relocated to Kilkenny, and it was a pleasure to see him again (we first met back in February on my tour with The Mastersons). At the end of the show , he joined us for a loose version of "I Shall Be Released," which I believe someone in the audience captured for YouTube posterity. Kilkenny is also home to a beautiful old castle (built in 1195), and Jane and I had just enough time before soundcheck for a tour. Unlike a lot of the other castles I saw on tour, this one was occupied up until the 20th Century,
Up next was the last night of tour in Belfast. It was bittersweet to say goodbye to Ricky, Tom, and Steph after the many shows and miles we shared, but I'm so grateful to them for the opportunity to play to so many amazing audiences. I learned so much from watching Ricky play each night and was taken such good care of by Tom and Steph that I feel a special kind of privileged. It's a lucky break when you get to tour with an artist you'd happily want to see perform every night for a month, but it's even more special when the artist and their crew are folks you want to hang out with every night, too.
Before it was time to fly home, Jane and I had one last day to ourselves. We got up at the crack of dawn and drove north, first stopping at The Dark Hedge (which you might recognize from Game Of Thrones) and then visiting Dunluce Castle and the Giant's Causeway. I'd fallen in love with these spots on my first visit to Northern Ireland and thought Jane would feel similarly. What I failed to take into account was the weather. It was snowing when we left Belfast, and not just flurries. It was coming down hard, making the roads treacherous and visibility low. The narrow country roads to the Dark Hedge were iced over. We came across a stuck vehicle just as some Good Samaritans came to the rescue, and on more than one occasion, I could feel our rental car lose traction and begin to slide. The hike down to the spectacular geological formations of the Giant's Causeway (thousands of hexagonal rock columns) featured gusts of the most brutal, biting winter wind I've ever experienced. Any exposed skin quickly went numb, and the rest of your body simply ached from it. Despite the pain, the scenery was incredible, and we were treated to a gorgeous light show by the fickle Irish weather. Dark clouds and snow gave way to blue skies and sunshine. Suddenly, a full rainbow appeared. Then, just as quickly, it was gone and the sky unleashed a barrage of hail that felt like a thousand tiny needles pricking your entire body at once.
After we warmed up with some hot food, we drove back south to Dublin for our last night in Europe. I'd been thrilled to see Josh Ritter was playing his second of two sold out nights at Vicar Street, and his keyboard player Sam Kassirer (who produced my 'Shipwreck' album) was kind enough to offer us a pair of fantastic seats. After a physical and mentally exhausting two months on the road, it was a treat to celebrate the end of it by seeing one of my favorite bands play one of the best shows I've ever seen them put on. Josh is beloved in Ireland, and the crowd sang along with such joy that it was hard not to be swept up in it all. After the gig, we got to catch up with him and the band and walk the streets of Dublin one last time. No better way to end a tour, as far as I'm concerned.
* Live Photos From Belfast By Colin Patterson *