If last night’s Sharon Shannon concert had to be described in one word it would be “energetic”.
Just watching Shannon accompanied, and at times overshadowed, by the “brilliant Alan Connor” was enough to leave me feeling exhausted. Quite how the musical duo can re-energise themselves for another show tonight is beyond me.
But, lively though the music was, there was much more to the concert than raw energy. Walking on to the Mareel stage in a pair of ridiculously-tall red platform high heels, Shannon’s smile lit up the auditorium. And at the end of the first set she flashed it again, saying: “It’s really, really, great to be back here. We are delighted, especially to be playing in this beautiful theatre.”
That smile would appear at the end of every set and the impression was that Shannon was genuinely thrilled to be performing before an appreciative Shetland audience again.
Connor’s extravagant boogie-woogie keyboard playing may seem to be an odd accompaniment to Shannon’s traditional button accordion. But it somehow works.
Watching Connor is like witnessing a man possessed, all nodding head, chomping jaw and lightning fast fingers. And as he glissandos along the keyboard there are time it looks like his Roland piano is about to topple over.
After introducing her sidekick Shannon, as if it were necessary, says: “We are going to be playing lots more lively music.”
That may have been a statement of the obvious, but it was certainly true, with Shannon’s mesmerising skills standing out in a set of reels called Rattling Ireland.
Then it was time for Connor to take the limelight again. Not only is he a fantastic pianist, says Shannon, he is “also an amazing guitar player and a great singer”.
He proves that with a bluesy number with the catchy chorus line “Let the midnight special shine a light on me”. His song is accompanied by simple chords from Shannon before it merges seamlessly into another Shannon tune.
After a brief tête-à-tête between the performers it is decided that Connor will play a solo piece, allowing Shannon to join us as one of the amazed onlookers as he takes that energetic style to a new level – sometimes even raising chuckles at his exuberance.
“Follow that,” someone says when Connor falls silent, but Shannon is up to the task, this time with fiddle in hand and a set of reels called The Wood Choppers. It appears she is bowing so fast that the fiddle is smoking, as resin from the bow drifts upwards illuminated against the black backdrop.
There is still time for tunes by Dónal Lunny and Tim Edey (a slow air composed as a birthday present) and a crowd-pleasing performance of Galway Girl sung by Connor with the crowd joining in with the “I-ay-I-ays”.
All that’s left is time for the obligatory encore, The Bungee Jumpers, and for Shannon to thank Megan Nisbet and Lauren Johnson who opened the show in beautiful style.
The unassuming lasses, with their superb harmonising ran through a set of mostly country-influenced covers. The Shetland’s Got Talent winners again showed that the next generation of musicians is developing well, with 20 Years by the Civil Wars and the set-closing Truth No. Two by the Dixie Chicks being stand-out songs.
It’s testament to the girls’ age that they introduced one of the songs as “a really old one”. When it was announced that it was the Everly Brothers’ All I have to do is Dream there was a chuckle from a few audience members who must have remembered the song as if it was released yesterday. The pair have a bright future.
• Nisbet and Johnson will again be opening the show for Shannon and Connor with a gig in the North Roe and Lochend Hall tonight. A review of tonight’s performance will be included in next week’s Shetland Times.