Black 47 | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Black 47 

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Black 47 is a popular New York Irish bar band whose irrepressible leader, larry Kirwan, specializes in a heart-bursting brand of "green-card rock" that sets romantic tales of Irish famine, revolt, and emigration to music that combines the exuberance of Springsteen, the shambling, unemployed charm of Billy Bragg, and the instrumental attack of the Pogues. The Springsteenian part, at least, is cheerfully copped to by Kirwan; in "Funky Ceili" he finds a transAtlantic version of that little cafe where they play guitars all night and all day, and his songs are dotted with apostrophes to Bridie Mary Mary, and Lily, all recalling Bruce's Wendy, Terry, and Jane. But the band (the name's an homage to 1847, the depth of the potato famine) retains its own identity, mostly due to the usual Irish instrumentals and Kirwan's charming way of telling a story. On their major-label debut, a six-song EP, he honors the radical James Connolly, apologizes to Marie for wrecking her wedding, and--in the role of a starving farmer smiling to America--movingly looks back at a country "not livin' / She's a phantom." It's impressive throughout. Black 47 is nicely teamed with the local (if oddly punctuated) band Ike Reilly; Community #9, new vehicle for the taut and passionate songs of the talented Reilly. Wednesday, 6:30 PM, China Club, 616 W. Fulton; 466-0812.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Kurt Mundahl.

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