Flashback: Barry Egan recalls an eventful night in Sweden with The Corrs in 2000
As Sharon Corr releases her brilliant new album, The Same Sun, and plays the Sugar Club in Dublin tonight September 20, Barry Egan recalls a night in Sweden with The Corrs 14 years ago...
November 18th, 2000
It's just past 1am on a Saturday night in one of Europe’s most ridic, and expensive, cities: Stockholm in the guts of winter.
In the bitter cold, the Corr sisters pull their coats up around them as they get out of the limo after the show – Dundalk’s answer to the Von Trapp family have just played to 25,000 people.
Outside the club, the scrunch-shouldered security men suddenly stir, busying themselves around the band. Sharon, Andrea, Jim, Caroline and boyfriend Frank are immediately ushered rather dramatically in past the hundreds, outside in the brass-monkey weather conditions.
"I hate when they do that," Andrea says as she grabs me by the arm and drags me through the heaving throng.
Andrea's patience is infinite. A famous Swedish sports player is brought over by the manager of the club to meet her. And then another. The alpha male proprietor sends over a magnum of champagne.
I have never seen a bigger bottle of champagne in my life. It is one of those bottles they give you when you win the Formula One driving championship. And there are soon three of them on the table along with bottles of Absolut and gin.
We’ve already had a few beers and suchlike in the dressing room of the venue after the show. So magnums of champers are unlikely to dent the group’s collective sobriety too much at this stage.
Either way, Andrea and I are deep in a conversation that will last all night… oh, about God, the planet, life, love and just about everything in between.
There are beautiful people with strange accents swarming all over the table… attempting something of a feeding frenzy focused on the world famous Irish band in town for the night.
It's a night without monotony.
Jim sits almost in the middle of the table like a general viewing the battlefield. It is 3am and we have all reached a plateau of relaxation. Locked - in other words.
I remember at some point Andrea tied my hair up with her scrunchie (this is in memory of the time she had worn her underwear as a scrunchie on holidays and went out forgetting she was still sporting aforesaid unorthodox hair-bobbin).
The rest is hazy. Very hAzY. The men's toilet had a clear glass sheet against which you were required to answer the call of nature. At around 4am, I remember standing next to Jim in front of this the aforesaid shiny bathroom grotesquerie discussing mortality.
"It's like Woody Allen said," Jim beams, zipping up his flies. "I'm not frightened of death. I just don't want to be there when it happens."
I remember asking Caroline whether she was first attracted to Frank (who she is long since married to) because he reminded her of her father Gerry.
"That is something that is very subconscious with women," Caroline answered.
"I don't necessarily fancy people who are like my father. My father and Frank get on very well but I wouldn't consider them very, very alike. They do have a similar sense of humour. All those things are subconscious.
"I don't think women go out to look for that, but sometimes they do end up with some who is quite similar to their father, especially if they've had an absent father they will look for that. But I've had my father around all my life."
Like I said, it was a night without monotony. At one point, around 3 or 4am, Andrea makes up a game on the spot for herself, Frank (Caroline's boyfriend) and myself to play the whole night.
The rules are simple: you learn a line, given to you by Ms. Corr, which identifies you to the other participants in this secret game.
And whoever you are talking to, you must recite the line aloud if Andrea asks you the simple question: "What's my name?"
Like Mother Superior in John Rocha, Andrea Corr gives us all our lines to say.
Andrea's line - delivered with some sonic splendour - is : "What's my name? Little Bird! That's right!"
Frank's line is: "What's my name? Fly fly Frankie the Fly! That's right!"
And mine: "What's my name? Blue Blue Barney McGrue! That's right!"
This goes on for what seems like ages. Andrea understands the rules and the game better than anyone. But in time, you eventually get the hang of it; though please don’t email in to ask me to explain it here.
Upon reflection, 3 young Irish people excitedly chanting, "What's my name? Little Bird! That's right!" and "What's my name? Fly fly Frankie the Fly! That's right!" does seem to bamboozle the slightly bamboozled-already Swedes.
Andrea made the game seem as deep and meaningful as that Ingrid Bergman movie The Seventh Seal where a man in 14th century Sweden goes in search of the true answers about life, death, and the existence of God by playing chess against the Grim Reaper during the Black Plague. He challenges Death to a chess game for his life.
Once our game in 21st century Sweden is over, then it gets very hazy indeed.
The last thing I can remember is: getting an absolutely, ridiculously expensive taxi (when I presented my expenses to the Sunday Independent upon my return, the accountant asked, quite legitimately, when he saw the taxi receipts, 'Did you buy a fleet of taxis over there?') to go back to the hotel to fall asleep in a drunken state of grace.
The next to last thing I can remember is: the Corrs' very charming business manager Barry Gastor standing over my bed at 6am, shouting: "The plane is leaving! Get up! We're going! You can make your own way back to Dublin if you don't get out of that bed!”
Five minutes later, packed, showered, and still-drunk, I meet a decidedly deteriorating Corrs in the lobby of the most expensive hotel in the history of hotels (a sandwich and a bottle of beer at 4am cost more than my mortgage). We give each other knowing looks. Then we all trudge shamefacedly out to the waiting bus.
I have never felt worse in my life - or, strangely, for that matter, have I ever felt better in my life, despite having spent an absolute fortune in less than 12 hours in a European country not that far from Ireland.
My ginger whinger super-moaning notwithstanding, it is like a very cool school trip – a very cool school with the Corrs. In Stockholm. With lots of drinking. And talking all night about God and death and what's next for human existence.
I remember when we got to the airport there was a lot of bad singing in the VIP lounge. I think they sang to me and I briefly joined in. So, officially, for a brief moment of time on the Scandinavian Peninsula, I was in The Corrs.
Then Andrea asked me to join her on the flight to New York to continue our chat about God, the planet, love, life and whatever else in-between. I tell her I want to go home to Dublin. I also tell her that I am petrified of flying.
"When it's your time, it's your time. It's nicer up there."
"In the next place."
At 30,000 feet?
"Much higher up than that."
"Yeah, it's good up there. So don't worry." I'm now even more petrified. She gets on a flight to New York with her sisters and I fly back to Dublin with her equally hungover brother Jim.
Cut to 12 hours earlier. Padding around her dressing room in Stockholm, wearing Bambi-chaste eyes, Andrea Corr is due on stage in 10 minutes' time.
(I can hear Jim Corr bumping about in the other room, looking for something he can't find.) Out there … beyond the brick-outhouse bouncers with the walkie-talkies … 25,000 ecstatic Swedes are patiently waiting for the Corrs.
It is only when Andrea takes the stage with her siblings that everything becomes clear.
"One day soon we'll meet again," Andrea sings. "I wanna feel just like before/ Before the rain came in my door/ Shook me up, turned me around/ Made me cry 'til I would drown."
She sings with passion of the day the shadowed boatman came to ferry her beloved mammy Jean across the big river. From the intensity in her voice, you imagine that he took a little bit of Andrea with him.
As she sang that night in Stockholm, Andrea is bathed in light – seems even to exude it like a personal quality.
Written on Jean's birthday, No More Cry addressed the subject of their mother's sad passing, aged just 57, from a rare lung condition while awaiting a transplant operation at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle in England on November 24, 1999…
"One day soon, we'll meet again," Andrea sings on stage.
Two breathless hours later in the dressing room after the show, the coal-haired Dundalk anti-diva seems to be lost in thought, floating over the ocean back to Ireland and back to her mother.
The words came out in a torrent, a violent flood, as though some dam had burst deep within her. Andrea said the last thing she wanted was anyone's pity, for anyone to ever feel sorry for her.
"Probably one of my failings is pride," she said maybe even wistfully. "And I don't think I'm pitiful. I think it is sad. I understand people looking at me. I know because I've looked at other people who've lost their mum and I feel sorry for them. I don't know. I'm defensive. I'm strong. I know I'm vulnerable and everything like that, but I know with my faith I'm strong, and that I'm also lost, and I want her. But this is the way it is. So there you go. ‘
‘Do you know how I feel? Do you know how you feel when somebody close to you dies?"
I shook my head.
"I remember this feeling when Mammy died," Andrea begins.
"You would walk into a room and you would bring darkness in, because people would look and go: `Oh no, that's the girl who lost her mum. The poor family.' And it would scare them."
"They would suddenly look at their own mum," Andrea continued, "because it was like we brought death into the room. I didn't like that for people. I didn't like seeing it in their faces. It was for them. I just remember feeling that for the first while after mum died walking in rooms and people being scared for themselves and their own. I really understood it. But I would prefer to bring light into a room."
I think you're wrong about that, Andrea, I say. "People were just more concerned about your feelings than their own. When I met you last Christmas I didn't know what to say," I continue.
"Yeah, I remember you saying that afterwards. And it was kind of surreal in Glendalough that day .…. " Andrea said referring to the day just before Christmas in 1999 that I took Andrea and the author Conor Cruise O’Brien to a snow-covered Glendalough for an interview and photo-shoot together for the cover of a Millennium magazine I was editing for the Sunday Independent.
I almost apologise to Andrea. I say that I didn't really think, that day - "I brought you to a graveyard to be photographed with O'Brien. And this only weeks after your mum died".
"Graveyards are for people living, Barry," she laughed. "They're not for the dead. That's my view on graveyards. Graveyards are for us to go somewhere. It's nothing to do with the dead. So I wouldn't align the two in my mind.”
“So it is sometimes uplifting … and it is madly ridiculous and sometimes you feel guilt. There are times you'll walk into a room and you'll forget, and if people don't bring it up, then that forgetting is prolonged. It's quite a nice thing. So I didn't think it was weird that you didn't mention it."
Read part two HERE