Moving Hearts Live Reviews

Moving Hearts – The Olympia Theatre, Dublin – – 29th Jan ’16.

Bang on the advertised 9 o’clock start, the band unceremoniously take to the stage as the last of the stragglers, those who didn’t heed the curtain call, stumble though the darkening theatre in search of their seats as Davy Spillane’s haunting low whistle calls to us like the plaintive cry of the curlew across the bog as he summons us with the opening notes of ‘May Mountain dew’. As evocative as ever, the otherworldly melody flexes and fleshes itself out as it fills the auditorium. Goose bumps on goose bumps, as we steady ourselves for the off.

The initial nine piece are joined later on in proceedings by Galway’s finest, Mártin O’Connor on accordion. During the ‘Kesh Set’, they let Mártin off the leash and by Jesus can that greyhound run. His fingers blur, flying over the rows of buttons as he pumps and squeezes the bejesus out of the box.  Temple Bar’s Music Centre isn’t the only Button Factory pumping out the dance tunes tonight.

Fans of their earlier work are rewarded tonight with a few of the bands sung songs courtesy of Mick Hanley, who joins the band thrice throughout the gig. His first appearance brings us a reworded ‘Dark End of the Street’ to include a reference to 2015’s ‘Yes’ vote and rightly highlighting how far we’ve come since 1982 when the song was originally recorded. He pops back later for ‘After the Deluge’ and a fairly rocking ‘Hiroshima Nagasaki, Russian Roulette’ in the encore.

‘After The Deluge’ threatens to veer from the middle of the road and into ditch before Keith Donald’s alto sax outro rescues the day and raises the song to a different level. His solo during ‘Titanic’ is equally sublime as it engages with and then rises above Spillane’s low whistle as it spirals towards the gods in the upper balcony of the Olympia in another pulsating moment. Lovely, wristy hurling as they say.

The lilting, bouncy, joyous pop intro of ‘The Lark’ heralds the seven piece jig set, as the triple attack of O’Connor’s accordion, Donald’s sax and Spillane’s pipes pick up the pace, we move from trot, to cantor, to gallop as the gig proper climaxes. Yes there is an encore to come but every thing after ‘The Lark’ is superfluous, mere gilding of the lily.

If there’s a finer sight or sound in all of this great creation than Moving Hearts in full flow I’ve yet to experience it. Spillane is laying some serious pipe tonight and the interplay between himself and Donald’s sax is quite simply, breathtakingly, jaw-droppingly stunning. By the time the set climaxes with ‘Langstrom’s Pony’ the denizens of The Olympia are on their feet a whooping and hollering in delirium.

There’s an embarrassment of riches on display here tonight with the quality of musicianship and at the heart of it all, in the wings, out of the spotlight, Donal Lunny unassumingly stands. Willing for his arrangements to sing for themselves.

Without this man, Irish music as we know it today wouldn’t exist. He is to trad what Bowie was to pop. Innovative, trailblazing, mercurial, omnipresent. As I said at the top, ’80s Ireland wasn’t a great place to be but Mr Lunny made it a little bit more bearable and, as we’re literally reeling in the years tonight, with a few jigs thrown in for good measure this is one ’80s memory I don’t mind reliving.


Moving Hearts review – The Glasgow Herald – 22nd Jan ’16

Celtic Connections, Moving Hearts and neXo

Old Fruitmarket, Glasgow

Rob Adams


“There was a real sense of community, involvement and excitement also with Moving Hearts, who appear to have found several extra gears, increased refinement and added rocking-out enthusiasm in this current incarnation. The traditional element is strengthened by a fabulous frontline that has Mairtin O’Connor’s rich accordion phrasing partnering the redoubtable Davy Spillane’s exquisite uilleann pipes and low whistle playing, enhanced at times by our own Aidan O’Rourke on fiddle, and Donal Lunny’s harmonic energy on bouzouki is rooted by bass guitarist Eoghan O’Neill’s redefining of the term “elegant punch”.

Spillane’s heartfelt longing, singer Mick Hanly’s weathered sincerity, Keith Donald’s impassioned saxophone lyricism and the sure punctuation and detail of drums and percussion as their epic The Lark sang and soared made these heroes’ return absolutely exultant.”


Moving Hearts – Scotsman Review – 22nd Jan ‘16 

CELTIC Connections habitually gives equal weight to both words in its name and new nine-piece NeXo, opening for Moving Hearts, demonstrated those musical connections in action, bringing together musicians from Scotland, Wales, Galicia, Argentina and Uruguay in a dynamic fusion of traditions which sounded footloose and free-flowing.

Moving Hearts | Rating: **** | Old Fruitmarket, Glasgow

Moving Hearts helped write the rulebook on progressive folk fusion back in the 1980s but even though audiences are more acclimatized to such devil-may-care criss-crossing of musical boundaries these days, this veteran Irish supergroup, reunited since 2007, remain a vibrant force, approaching their set more like keen pups than the elder statesmen they are.

They must truly have been ahead of the curve in their first flush, as even the smooth jazz alto saxophone breaks from Keith Donald couldn’t really date the music. In fact, singer/guitarist Mick Hanly chose to update, slightly amending their version of Dan Penn’s soul classic Dark End of the Street to reflect the passing of Ireland’s marriage equality act.

The songs felt like a bonus add-on, such was the propulsive flow of an increasingly energised set. Founder member Donal Lunny still helms the ship on bouzouki, while the young upstart Davy Spillane provided much of the melodic decoration on uillean pipes and low whistle, with further expert embellishment on fiddle from special guest Aidan O’Rourke. The audience listened, learned and danced, happy to hitch a ride alongside these committed trailblazers.


GLÓR, ENNIS – Wednesday, January 30.
Gerry Quinn – The Irish Examiner

“The re-assembled ’80’s group, reconvened as an all instrumental tour-de-force with four superb shows at Vicar Street last February and a subsequent live CD and DVD was released just before Christmas…
As the rhythm section of drummer Liam Bradley, Eoghan O’Neill on chunky electric bass and percussionist extraordinaire Noel Eccles laid down a groove of ‘Funkadelic’ proportions, the crowd howled when Spillane’s pipes and Keith Donald’s dazzling sax entered the fray…….. a definitive moment of both tradition and innovation, while the seven-tune epic ‘The Lark’, encapsulated the group’s sheer power.


Moving Hearts
Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow – Miles Johnson, Monday January 28, 2008
The Guardian

“Many bands reform to chase past glories, or out of boredom, or to pay the mortgage – but few do so out of a sense of responsibility for their music. ….
…..the stunning level of musical virtuosity remains.
..and as an exhibition of technical prowess, Moving Hearts still have much to offer.”

John O’Regan
Caught in the Act Online Magazine
Dolan’s Warehouse Limerick, August 5th 2008

“..The epic ‘Tribute to Peadar o Donnel’ tripped through the complex rock/jazz terrain mixed with traditional interludes… ‘Ballinspittle Boogie’ and ‘The woman in the Big House’ two unreleased epics from The Storm sessions saw them cruising with a musical altitude of concord proportions. Then the epic 15 minute ‘The Lark’ saw them hitting higher spades – with high energy traditional music and melodic jazz laced improvisations taking the drivers seat.
From this showing Moving Hearts are alive well and beating the music is cooking and they are riding the enjoyment train aswell as rekindling the fire of their magnanimous reputation.”


Moving Hearts CD and DVD Reviews

Moving Hearts
Live in Dublin (Rubyworks RWXCD60 [68m] + DVD RWXDVD60)
Neil Pedder, Taplas
Moving Hearts are back! ..(They) were originally only together for five years, but pretty much wrote the book on combining rock, jazz and traditional folk with unmistakably Irish origins. Their influence across genres has been massive. Watching the DVD, it was great to see some of the finest musicians close up, playing live and enjoying themselves immensely. Best album of 2008 perhaps!

Cardiovascular Music Therapy
Moving Hearts – Live in Dublin
Geoff Wallis, Songlines  Magazine ( May 2008)
Simultaneously issued with the live album, this DVD not only provides a memorable record of the band’s Dublin reunion gigs, but a detailed interview-filled account of its history…..this really does offer footage that captures numerous spine-tingling musical moments not least the awesome interplay between Davy Spillane’s pipes and Keith Donald’s sax on ‘McBrides’ and a thunderous rendition of ‘The Storm’.
Well-directed throughout, this is a must-have release for anyone interested in seeing just how far Irish traditional musicians, rockers and jazzers can co-ordinate in pushing the envelope and still come up smiling.

Barns Stormed and Gobs Smacked
Moving Hearts – Live in Dublin
….The Storm, (is) one of the most remarkable albums in Ireland’s musical history and a thorough vindication of the band’s fusionist approach…..All six tracks from that momentous album are revisited on Live in Dublin including an astonishing opening rendition of ‘The Lark’, gobsmacking interplay between Spillane and Donald on ‘The Storm’ as well as version of ‘Downtown’ ……… with more fire in its belly than a dragon with gastroenteritis. And everything is driven to the sensitive side of distraction by the most powerful rhythm section that Ireland has ever produced……and if Spillane’s low- whistle on ‘The May Morning Dew’ doesn’t draw a tear to your eye, then nothing ever will.

GERRY QUINN , The Clare People, Jan 15th 08
…the film (DVD) is a reaffirmation that the Hearts’ music is timeless, ageless and ever evolving……what shines through is that their creative juices have begun to flow once again with a renewed vigour that was only hinted at, at the time of their much lamented demise over two decades ago. The group’s percussionist Noel Eccles looked back on the year gone by with a perceptible air of contentment and fulfillment, when I spoke to him recently.
“I think we approached the Vicar Street gigs last February with a certain amount of caution and we discovered that we had a really good time…. in some way the proof of the pudding is in the DVD and live CD. It turned out as something we’re all very proud of.”

MOVING HEARTS Live In Dublin Rubyworks ****
SIOBHÁN LONG, The Ticket, The Irish Times, 30th November 2007
For those who missed Moving Hearts’ reunion last February (or those who simply can’t get enough of them), this live CD and accompanying DVD colours in the gaps gleefully. The Hearts’ intense live performance is captured with unexpected intimacy, highlighting the sheer scale of piper Davy Spillane’s influence on the band’s original sound. Keith Donald’s soprano sax still manages to sound scintillating, and Eoghan O’Neill’s bass-lines are a reminder of just how left-field this conglomeration was in its heyday. Donal Lunny lets the percussive force of the bouzouki propel this welcome reunion into the stratosphere.

A MATTER OF THE HEARTS Review, Tudur Morgan, Musician, Wales
”Moving Hearts Live in Dublin” is an absolutely stunning testament to the phenomenal Irish group…..They were a band before their time in 1981…are still the leaders with their unique fusion of rock, jazz and trad…. and their sound is unmistakably Irish…An explosive and vibrant visit to Ireland’s glorious recent past when the Hearts were the kings of their country-and there is still no threat to their collective thrones. Long may their musical hearts beat.

DVD/CD review
David Kidman January 2008 Netrhythms
“…..the playing is top-flight!”

Moving Hearts Live in Dublin – DVD review
Gavin Davenport, Folk on Screen

…this is everything a good music DVD should be – artifact, souvenir, and reminder of a great live act doing what they do brilliantly.

Moving Hearts – Live in Dublin (Rubyworks)
SIMON BROUGHTON, London Evening Standard (Jan 08)