Review: Mary Coughlan at King’s Hall, Ilkley

The end of a triumphant but gruelling tour of several continents saw Mary Coughlan needing infusions of lemon and honey ‘and stuff’ at King’s Hall on Tuesday, April 16.

But the voice held up and she delivered some belting jazz and blues numbers to the delight of her fans – as demonstrated by the final standing ovation.

On a personal level, Mary Coughlan has been through the mill emotionally and physically over the years. She referred to her tally of ex-husbands, her addiction issues and her huge recent health problems, but all of this just enhances the heartfelt way her music deals with it all.

And she by no means holds back when it comes to matters peculiar to Ireland, its history and its hang-ups.

The evening started well with a trawl through Coughlan’s misspent youth (skipping rope to skipping school), troubled times (playing marbles to losing marbles) and eventual healing via a retreat in Italy.

Then it lost its way a bit with too many sad songs - and songs known only to those truly familiar with the back catalogue.

But she bounced back with a couple of Kirsty MacColl covers, A Whiter Shade of Pale and her take on family life.

And all reservations disappeared with the superb rendition of Christy Moore’s classic Ride On, bringing everyone to their feet. That was maybe the key; King’s Hall was just too big a venue, barely half full and with a steep rake on the stage.

How much better might it all have been in, say, the Wildman at Ilkley Playhouse, allowing for real interaction between performer and audience? And with more Moore?

On balance, though, a good evening prolonged by a generous signing and chatting session with fans - and a cheeky grin for the Gazette.

Judith Dunn