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Black 47/Big Bad Johns/The Reilly Clan/The Ruffians-Live at Toad's Place, New Haven, CT on February 5, 1999.

Irish music night at the Toad began with a fine set by The Ruffians. The young band quickly got the crowd going, and even brought a couple of their own Irish dancers to liven things up a bit. Their set was generally well-received by the somewhat small but appreciative crowd. The bandís sound did seem a little rough in spots but their enthusiasm was evident and got the crowd behind them.

Next up was an absolutely incredible set by The Reilly Clan. This band spends a lot of time rehearsing and is very serious about what theyíre trying to do. This resulted in a very strong performance and a well-deserved reception from the now-swelling crowd. The group performs mostly tradition Irish songs with a few originals mixed in. The originals stood up well and the traditional songs gave their set some instant recognition from crowd. The band succeeded in kicking this show into high gear, which is what every opener hopes to do, and undoubtedly gained some new fans tonight. Their CD, "Songs Our Father Sang" was selling quite briskly after their set. Bandleader Brian Reilly keeps things completely under control and has the personality to meet the demands of his role. The bottom line is that The Reilly Clan is very entertaining, very enthusiastic, and very talented. So why havenít you heard of them? (e-mail: ClanReilly@aol.com )

Big Bad Johns were next, and Iím not quite sure how they got onto an Irish music show considering that their music is strictly of a 50ís retro-rock style. Anyone whoís been around the local music scene for the last few years has been lucky enough to see this band grow into the force that it is today. These guys simply rock the crap out of any room that they play and tonight was no exception. The BBJs are pure adrenaline and confidence onstage. This is a great band, and since releasing their 2nd CD, "I Will Be Good", their confidence seems to have skyrocketed. Tonightís set included songs from both of their releases and was almost entirely composed of original songs. The band is primed for something bigger, the only question is how much longer weíll get to enjoy them as locals.

Black 47 took the stage around midnight. Itís hard to review a Black 47 show because Iíve seen them several times and I know that their fans, myself included, bring a level of appreciation to the show that very few bands are ever privileged to receive. This set began on sour note, however, because during the first song, "The Big Fellah", which is about Michael Collins, the band just wasnít anywhere close to being in the pocket. By the 3rd song, a cover of Bob Marleyís "Three Little Birds", everything was under control, the crowd was singing along and the real Black 47 was holding court. The 5th song, and the bandís best known one, "Funky Ceili", had the entire crowd dancing in unison. This is the true power of Black 47, itís all in the emotional response that they can elicit from the crowd that makes their shows so great. Tonightís highlights included the crowd favorite "James Connolly", the rap piece "Time To Go", the autobiographical "Rockin The Bronx", and "40 Shades Of Blue". They also performed several new songs which are to be included on their next studio release.

The band has just released a new CD, "Live In New York City", which was recorded on St. Patrickís Day 1998. A second live disc, from the same show, is in the works and a studio disc is also on the way. Black 47 deserves praise for trying to make rock songs with meaning, and for the level of energy that they put into every live performance. For more information use the link to the bandís homepage, to the left of this review.