When Brian Kennedy first visited Australia last year he gave a one-off performance at the Basement to test the waters -“ and attracted a truly diverse crowd.

There were gay men, including Kennedy’s pal Mark Trevorrow, as well as groovy young Irish backpackers and a number of very teary old mums and grannies.

Part of the reason for the mixed crowd is Kennedy’s unique songlist -“ which includes his own songs, covers of modern classics and a generous serving of very old ditties -“ tunes like The Ballad of Killaloe and The Curragh of Kildare. Somehow, it works, perhaps because Kennedy doesn’t think his repertoire is strange at all.

It’s just the best songs possible, he said, by phone from Melbourne. And Irish culture has changed so dramatically in the last 100 years.

These days if you say -˜Irish music’ it could mean anything. It could mean the Corrs, Sinead O’Connor, U2, Van [Morrison], whatever. My Irish music as an Irish performer embodies not only original music that I’ve written myself and a Van Morrison song that I recorded for a Hollywood movie or whatever it is, there’s also Carrickfergus or a song like that, that is classically Irish.

Part of Kennedy’s love of these tunes was fuelled by his hosting of two television series entitled On Song, which explored the history of Irish music and saw him duet with guest stars like Sinead O’Connor and Lulu.

Something of a darling in Ireland Kennedy’s sexuality was never a big focus, although the recent publication of his first novel has changed things again.

The Arrival Of Fergal Flynn concerns a love affair between a 17-year-old boy and a 27-year-old priest -“ and it’s currently number three on the Irish bestseller list.

I honestly couldn’t be more thrilled, Kennedy said. Mostly people have been saying it’s a very brave book and you do not have to be gay to read it. I think people were touched that I was just so honest about it.

Seeing Kennedy perform, it’s not surprising: his charm is so potent it should be illegal. Yet, amazingly, he’s single.

It’s not difficult to be having an interesting sex life these days, thank goodness, but in terms of a love life, with the emphasis on the love, I’m available, let’s just say that, he said.

Brian Kennedy is playing on Saturday 6 November at the York Theatre, Seymour Centre, corner City Road and Cleveland Streets, Chippendale. Phone 9351 7940 for bookings and visit
www.briankennedy.co.uk for more information.

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