After being primed by a heartfelt introduction by Dick Cerri, the Sunday evening radio institution on WLTT-FM's "Music Americana," the sellout audience at Lisner Auditorium Saturday night was all but salivating for Tommy Makem and Liam Clancy.
They didn't disappoint. Among Irish folk singers, who once clovered the landscape only around St. Patrick's Day but are now year-rounders in Washington, Makem and Clancy remain fresh in the vim of ancestral music and wit. They tell stories about George Bernard Shaw, Robert Burns and Willie Brennan, the Irish highwayman of egalitarian bent who robbed both the rich and the poor.
In one wry song, Makem and Clancy summarized the fear that countless young Catholic men are up against under the British presence in Ulster:
"Whatever you say, say nothing
When you talk about you-know-what.
For if you-know-who should hear you
You know what you'll get.
They'll send you off to you-know-where
For you wouldn't-know-how-long."
Clancy proved again that he has no peer in the singing of the antiwar classic "And the Band Played 'Waltzing Matilda.' " When he introduced "The Dutchman," a love ballad that tells of an aging couple still tender of heart to each other, Clancy mimicked the rock music lust songs of today by prancing spasmodically on the stage. To cheers, he said that what you get from these purple-mohawked noisemakers is "garbage, garbage." Starting into his song, he then said there must be "friendship in love, which is what it's all about."
Clancy and Makem are good-hearted men and sparkling musicians. One part of the act that needs to be cleaned up: the put-down jokes about nuns. The days of knuckle-rapping nuns are long past, even in Ireland and especially here. The jokes, low-grade blarney, are tasteless and the lads should have their guitars washed out with soap.