By Suzanne Pender
CARLOW’S Derek Ryan made history last weekend by becoming the first Irish singer to perform at a drive-in concert.
Not content with just one show, the demand for tickets was so high that the much-loved country singer performed three gigs at Ballymena Showgrounds.
The Farmers’ Bash Drive-In concerts were the first country shows to take place outside America, following in the footsteps of country music superstars Keith Urban, Alan Jackson and Garth Brooks, who took to the stage last month.
More than 1,200 cars, tractors and trucks packed the Co Antrim sports ground over three nights to watch Derek’s lively set from the comfort of their own vehicles. The audio for the event was transmitted via FM to the vehicles, allowing fans to enjoy the show and adhering to the strict social distancing measures that were in place.
Last weekend was the first time Derek and his band had performed on stage since the end of their UK tour in March. The lockdown has seen a complete ban on live entertainment, which also affected the scheduled dance Derek had arranged back on 16 March in the Lord Bagenal Hotel, Leighlinbridge, to the disappointment of his legion of local fans. It joined scores of other dances and festivals Derek had planned for this summer, which have all now been cancelled.
In order to keep in touch with fans over the past number of months, Derek was busy between live Facebook concerts and the recording of his duet with country queen Philomena Begley.
It won’t rain forever was released during lockdown, with proceeds from the song shared with Alone Ireland and Age NI. They performed the song together last weekend at the drive-in shows, which heralded a near-deafening sound of car horns from the audience, a substitute for applause, such was the enthusiasm from his fans.
Derek was prompted to write the song after watching Philomena on the Late Late Show, when she recalled how lockdown had prevented her from seeing her grandchildren. The song topped the charts within hours of its release.
With strict social distancing still in place, it is unclear when Derek and his band will be able to return to live indoor shows, but those who travelled to Ballymena savoured the drive-in experience and hopefully others throughout the country will soon get their chance as well.