The biggest concert ever staged in Ireland took place in May of 1986, when 30 Irish rock, folk, punk and pop acts joined forces to present "Self-Aid," 14 hours of music to raise funds to create jobs for the country's unemployed. (At the time, nearly 250,000 people of Ireland's population of 3.5 million were unemployed.) Thirteen of those performances are included on Live for Ireland, an eclectic, engaging sampler of contemporary Irish music by big names (U2, Elvis Costello, Van Morrison) as well as performers who remain largely unknown to the mass market outside of Ireland (veteran folk singer Christy Moore being the best example).
One of the most rousing performances is by the Pogues, who combine Irish folk traditions with punk sensibilities; here they throw themselves passionately into Scottish songwriter Ewan MacColl's "Dirty Old Town," about love amid urban despair. U2 offers an earnest reworking of Bob Dylan's "Maggie's Farm"; Costello and the Attractions reprise the Jimmy Cliff reggae ballad, "Many Rivers to Cross." Bob Geldof and the Boomtown Rats, reunited for the occasion, perform "Joey's on the Street Again," with a verse or two of an old union-organizing sons, "I Don't Want Your Millions Mister" thrown in for good measure.
Van Morrison covers the Celtic mysticism front with "Here Comes the Knight"; Christy Moore and Paul Doran duet on the topical protest plea, "Make It Work"; and the Chieftains perform the lively, traditionally flavored instrumental, "Boil the Breakfast Early." Songs by In Tua Nua, Paul Brady, Chris De Burgh, Cactus World News, Clannad and the Fountainhead round out the album. Profits from the album project will benefit Self-Aid programs. (Reviewed on LP; cassette and CD versions also include Chris Rea's "Steel River.")