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23rd January, 1999. NEC Arena, Birmingham


Last night I fell in love with the incredible talents of the young Irish family from Dundalk. I've been trying to think of various words or phrases that could describe the experience. Unfortunately, I couldn't think of anything that could accurately recapitulate the feeling without putting them to shame. All words like 'magnificent', 'superb', and 'brilliant' are not enough to give them the credit they deserve. The only word that came close was 'phenomenal'!!

After incredible renditions of 'When He's Not Around' and 'No Good For Me', Andrea finally welcomed us all and asked if we had good singing voices. We were all a bit curious as to the nature of the question, which she later explained was due to the fact that when she started out, her voice was pure, now she sounds like Rod Stewart! That was a matter of opinion, though, as she sung every song throughout the night with perfect accuracy and pitch.

After playing 'The Right Time', they finally got the crowd jumping with the magnificent 'Joy of Life'. Then it was "Jim's bit". This is where he sat at a beautiful Grand Piano and informed us that he had a cold after catching it from Andrea, Sharon and Caroline a few weeks before. After a lot of "aaaaaaaah"ing and a few wolf-whistles, he played his "beautiful piece of Irish music" with superb precision, then welcomed back on stage Sharon and Caroline, who ould sing 'No Frontiers'. After more wolf-whistles (which the girls jokingly directed at Jim), they started to sing. Until that moment, I had no idea that these two sisters had such wonderful voices. You can hear then performing backing vocals, but Andrea's strong voice drowns them out. This, I thought, was the highlight of the evening. It was such a gorgeous song and sung even more beautifully than one can possibly imagine.

Andrea was brought back on stage with a huge applause, and after a couple of brilliant songs from their albums, icluding the incredible 'Haste to the Wedding', she started to chat to us. Just before they came on stage at the beginning, there was a small video clip of French and Saunders performing a small number, imitating the "cloned" sisters. In it, they sung "blah blah blah", and this point in the show was obviously where they got it from. In fact, Andrea said that this is where she does an impression of French and Saunders by talking nonsense. A few seconds later she proved it by stuttering and hesitating. Jim and Sharon picked up on this and congratulated Andrea, which was a good to applaud her. But after she gave us a brief history of the band's success, they performed 'Dreams'.

After 'Only When I Sleep', they closed the show with an incredible performance of 'I Never Loved You Anyway', in which she introduced the members of the band. After an extended wait offstage (the entire crowd was beginning to get restless after clapping for so long), they returned, in pleasant silver/gold outfits for their encore. This was where everyone got up, clapped and dance to 'So Young' and the dazzling 'Toss The Feathers'.

Overall, an unbelievable, unforgettable evening. Not more can be said, otherwise I will not do the group justice. So I'll close by saying I'm 'Hopelessly Addicted' to them, I hope they stay 'So Young', and any other music is 'No Good For Me'!!

Barry Simkins.