Francis Dunnery played 2 concerts at the Rosehill Theatre, Whitehaven on 21st and 22nd October as part of his annual Charlie and Kathleen Dunnery Charity Weekend, raising money for local schools and hospitals. The Saturday night concert got off to a promising start with Francis unleashed from the shackles of the microphone stand and using a wireless headset for “the first time” he told the audience.

Looking and sounding very relaxed he kicked off with ‘Chocolate Heart’ from his latest album ‘The Gulley Flats Boys’. The title of the concert was ‘The mid-life crisis show’ and a further crisis was added on the night with constant and regular interjections from a few drunk and loud members of the audience determined to disrupt proceedings.

Francis rose to the challenge and took on the heckling and interruptions in a very calm and restrained manner. The concert took a turn away though from his mix of monologues and songs as he announced he was open to requests. These came thick and fast with Francis obliging a few of the suggestions before sitting at the grand piano that was on the stage to play some old It Bites songs ‘Old Man and the Angel’, ‘Haunted’ and ‘Still too young to Remember’.

These songs were very intense and emotional with a lightness of touch that belied Francis’s claims that he wasn’t very good on the piano. He played and sang with genuine feeling. A very moving moment. ‘I’m in Love’ brought the concert to a successful and uplifting end. In some ways a strange night thanks to the thoughtless and boring heckling but unique and very ‘Dunnery’.

On Sunday night there was none of the disruption of the previous evening. You could feel the positive and lively energy in the theatre as Francis came onstage…and then off again! He forgot his transmitter! He said “Do you want a fun evening?” and proceeded to take requests all night. It was good to hear songs that don’t often get an airing such as ‘The Johnny Podell Song’ and ‘Too much Saturn’.

It was obvious that Francis was having a really great time and the place was positively ‘buzzing’. As always there is a spirituality to his performance and the vibe was infectious. Both nights were dedicated to Liz Stauffer, the 15 year old daughter of Kate who books his house concerts and has a brain tumour, and Francis filmed the audiences clapping and cheering for 1 minute for Liz. Another successful night. Here’s to next year’s concerts, Francis!

By David Baalham
Published in Egremont Today

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