Alex Massie

Chris de Burgh is an Angry, Misunderstood, Man. Apparently.

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From the Department of Criticism: the Irish Times handed my old Dublin University Players contemporary Peter Crawley the unenviable task of reviewing Chris de Burgh in concert. It's fair to say that his notice was less than generous...

Certain toes will never uncurl after this experience, but it is almost admirable how unaltered de Burgh has remained by the flow of time. You may have grown out of seeking epic significance in the portentous verses of Spanish Train, you may greet Patricia the Stripper with the same mortification as a faded photo of yourself. This is because you’ve changed. Chris de Burgh has not.

Not one to take this sort of thing lying down, Mr de Burgh responds and gives as good as he gets, earning, I think, a draw:

I rarely read reviews, but as yours was sitting on my kitchen table, and after three sold-out shows in the Gaiety Theatre, I thought I should have a look at it; after all, receiving a favourable review in The Irish Times is about as likely as . . . well, receiving a favourable review in The Irish Times!! 

I was not disappointed. How the fond memories came flooding back, more than 30 years of them; you must have a Lexicon of Handy Insults, because you managed to use many of the same ones that have been used so many times before, and still they make me smile at their continued lack of imagination. “Small man . . . shudder . . . warbly tenor . . . mawkish balladeer . . . cringe factor . . . squeaky clean . . . snigger . . . cheesy” etc – yes, they were all there, as used by many of your colleagues before, such as Joe Breen (who, I note, has been put out to pasture in the wine section, and I am assured by friends in the wine trade that he knows as much about wine as he did about music – precious little. I wonder what they have in mind for you in your dotage? Searing critiques of primary school Christmas plays perhaps, or judging knife-sharpening competitions in Sligo?).

Being a theatre critic and not a music critic, you must have strayed into the Gaiety by mistake last Monday night, possibly looking for the rear entrance to Neary’s pub, but you certainly arrived with the word “prejudice” burned into your furrowed brow. How it must have galled you to hear the rapturous welcome I received at the start of the show; how you must have writhed at every standing ovation; how you must have cringed at every call of “Chris, we love you”; how you must have felt isolated as the audience rose to their feet as one, singing, dancing and shouting out for more; how you must have growled to yourself as you left, surrounded by so many happy people, to make your curmudgeonly way to the safety of the street outside. You really should look up the word “entertainment” again, you might be surprised to see that it is all about people having a GOOD TIME!! Your churlish review is an insult to all those who enjoyed their night out, and in these days of collapsing newspaper sales and an entire new generation on the way who will get their information online, you may be looking for another job sooner rather than later. Your pals in the pub must have loved your review, but it seems that you are universally loathed in the theatre world. A leading impresario has described you as “puffed up with his own self-importance”, and a much-loved and successful actress refers to you as “that loathsome little turd”. Great accolades, to be sure.

A much misunderstood man, clearly.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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