Joe O’Donnell's Shkayla at the Godiva Festival.
by Pete Clemons
Coventry has just celebrated its 19th consecutive Godiva Festival. And what an absolute triumph it was with a reported 179,000 people attending this three day extravaganza.
And if there was a Guinness book of records entry for an artist who has appeared at the festival the most times then, and without checking facts in too much detail, Joe O’Donnell must surely be up there with one of the highest number of performances.
Over the years, his band, Shkayla, have appeared numerous times in many different formats generally performing on the smaller stages around the festival.
So what a marvellous gesture it was, by the event’s organisers, in giving Joe a shot on the main stage. And boy did Shkayla make the most of their moment in the sun with each of the band members given their chance to shine.
Alongside Joe in the band was vocalist and keyboard wizard Martin Barter, guitar virtuoso Si Hayden who now has over 40 albums to his credit, bassist Adrian Litvinoff who is equally at home on the jazz stand and fusion drummer Karen Milne.
And throughout the 40 minute set each musician was given an opportunity to flex their individual talents that certainly ‘wowed’ an audience that was visibly growing throughout the performance. In Joe’s words, seeing all those people was a wonderful sight from the stage.
They began with ‘Hostages’ followed by ‘The Battle’ both tracks off the Gaodhals Vision album. Next up was a Gaelic tune called ‘Ag Sugra’.
But I don’t think anything can prepare you for one of Joe’s Laments. O’Neills Lament complimented so beautifully by the guitar of Si Hayden was simply sensational. Among the captivated onlookers, on this sun drenched Sunday afternoon, a few jaws were certainly dropping at the Memorial Park venue.
And, as pointed out by someone so much more versed in this kind of thing than I am, ‘how Si’s incredible talents have not spread far wider than they currently have is a travesty. He is easily one of finest guitar players this city has ever produced’.
Even our current Lord Mayor, Tony Skipper, invited Si Hayden to play at his recent inauguration.
Shkayla’s set was concluded with a track called ‘Tribes’, also from the Gaodhals Vision album.
Despite his advancing years, Limerick born Joe, who has given so much joy over the year to his adopted city during the quarter century since he settled here, still carries an infectious enthusiasm.
Joe’s mind is always full of ideas and projects. He is in the process of giving a makeover to his solo album from 1977 ‘Gaodhals Vision’ which will be re-released later in the year as a package containing a DVD of a live performance recently filmed at the Belgrade Theatre as well as containing other unreleased and reworked music.
This maybe something to bear in mind nearer Xmas and you are stuck for an idea of what to buy a music loving partner.