By Mary Ann Bourbeau
For lovers of Irish rock ‘n’ roll, it is most certainly the end of an era.
After 25 years together, the members of the New York-based Irish rock band Black 47 will disband in November on the 25th anniversary of their first show, which took place in the Bronx. But Jersey Shore fans can celebrate with the band one last time Friday, March 14, when Black 47 plays its last gig at The Stone Pony in Asbury Park.
“We’re not retiring,” lead singer Larry Kirwan said. “We’re disbanding. No one in a band retires. As musicians, we will all continue to play. But it just seems like the right time to do this, to finish while we’re at the top of our game.”
With 14 CDs and 2,600 shows under their belt, Kirwan admits the decision was bittersweet. The band released “Last Call,” its final CD, on March 3, and has embarked on a yearlong set of shows to say goodbye to their legions of fans. “The band means a lot to so many people,” he said. “It was important to us to finish up in a positive and final way.”
Black 47 was formed in 1989 by Kirwan, a native of Wexford, Ireland, and Chris Byrne, a former New York cop. The band’s name comes from the year 1847, the worst year in the Great Irish Famine.
Over the years, Black 47 was a constant presence in New York pubs, most notably Paddy O’Reilly’s, where they were the house band for many years. They rocked everything from pubs to stadiums with songs heavy in political content, about issues such as gay rights and the war in Iraq.
The band, which never played the same show twice, encouraged their audiences to record the shows.
“We didn’t buy into the system,” Kirwan said. “We never cared about tours or record companies or people’s perceptions. We fought hard to help people understand the issues going on in Northern Ireland. We don’t tell them to take our opinions. We just want them to open their eyes and form their own opinions.”
Kirwan said Black 47 always loved playing at the Jersey Shore, especially in Asbury Park, because the people there have a great appreciation for live music.
“The Stone Pony has been a great place for us,” he said. “It’s rock ‘n’ roll history and we were a part of it. Jersey Shore audiences are music audiences. The level of live music down the Shore, with bands getting together and having a go, you don’t get that in all parts of the country.”
Though Kirwan will miss playing with Black 47, he has plenty of other irons in the fire. He hosts a show on Sirius satellite radio called “Celtic Crush” and has written several books. He is also a playwright and composer.
His musical, “Hard Times,” about Stephen Foster just finished up a limited off-Broadway run. He also wrote the score for another musical, “Transport,” which is currently playing at the Irish Repertory Theatre in New York City. “Having two plays running at the same time is a bit dizzying at times,” he said.
Unlike many other rock bands, Black 47’s disbanding will be final, meaning there will be no reunions.
“This is it,” Kirwan said. “I’m a boxing fan. I’ve seen what happens when people try to come back.”
Black 47 will headline Friday, March 14, The Stone Pony’s St. Patrick’s Day Celebration. Opening bands include Gran Marquis, Diego & Lot 25 and The Holy Terror.
Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $19.
Black 47 will also appear March 17 on “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.”