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CMAT at Fairview Park review: A spiritual experience

CMAT at Fairview Park review: A spiritual experience


by Sarah Finnan
14th Jun 2024

The rain subsided yesterday just in time for Ciara Mary-Alice Thompson – that’s CMAT to you – to take to the stage at Fairview Park, welcoming an 8,000-strong audience for her biggest gig to date. A high note in more ways than one, the show was an absolute triumph… dare I say, the best of the year.

Already with two hit albums – both of which debuted at number one on the Irish charts – a new single, “Aw, Shoot!”, and countless accolades (including a Brit nomination for International Artist of the Year) under her belt, CMAT’s star is only on the rise. “A couple of years ago, I did my first-ever open mic at the Bleeding Horse. Now, there are 8,000 people in a tent and nobody is more surprised than me,” she tells the crowd to raucous applause. Kicking the night off with a rendition of “Nashville”, it isn’t long before the blue and yellow tent is full to the gills with friends, family and fans all doing the Dunboyne Co. Meath two-step. 

My own CMAT love affair began back in 2022 when I saw her perform on the All Together Now main stage. A couple of weeks later, I saw her again, this time at Electric Picnic. I dragged my then-very-new boyfriend along with me, promising one hell of a show and boy, did my pal CMAT deliver. So impressed were we that she became a shared interest over which we bonded… I’m not saying she’s responsible for the success of my relationship but I’m not not saying that either. 

@image.ie You’ve heard Wuthering Heights but have you heard CMAT’s cover of Wuthering Heights? #fyp #katebush #cmat #fairviewpark ? original sound – IMAGE.ie

When she announced shows at the 3Olympia Theatre back in November, we scrambled to get tickets, joining a packed-out auditorium – most donning leopard print and cowboy boots (me included) – in enthusiastically chanting the lyrics to her most recognisable hits. The vibes were immaculate. Last night, CMAT reached her final form belting out Kate Bush’s “Wuthering Heights” to enthralled onlookers.

As The Guardian once pointed out, the singer is simultaneously “very retro and very now”. Her songs are dominated by a certain nostalgia and though her talent extends far beyond our humble shores,  there’s an inherent Irishness to everything she does too. For the first half of her Fairview Park performance, she wears a yassified Dublin GAA jersey and shorts made by Irish designer Sophie Murphy (a.k.a. Sewphie). A sign held up amidst the mass of bodies reads “CMAT I’m your cousin”. Another says, “I sold you cheese in Blanch”. There’s talk of Dungarvan and Dublin Bus and the advantages of a civil service pension. It’s on the nose but never twee. “If you have a dream and you have to quit your job and go on the dole and live with your nanny and granddad in Finglas for seven years, just do it!” Thompson encourages us, smiling knowingly.

“No More Virgos” elicits an impassioned response from bystanders, many with tragic love tales of their own. For “Where Are Your Kids Tonight?”, CMAT welcomes John Grant, with whom she collaborated on the track, out on stage with her. There are dance breaks and dramatic pauses aplenty and we lap it up as though each song may be her last. However, it’s her talk of freedom – and what happens when it’s lost – that really strikes a chord with spectators, particularly in light of Thompson’s decision to pull out of Latitude Festival this year (more on that here). 

@image.ie CMAT dedicates a song at her Fairview Park gig to the people of Palestine ? #cmat #fyp #fairviewpark ? original sound – IMAGE.ie

“This song is, amongst other things, a song about not having any freedom and desperately, desperately wanting to be free. [It’s about] the scenario of dreaming and being hopeful but also kind of pessimistic at the same time about the possibility of ever getting that freedom. When I was writing it, I was writing it about being a woman in a world that is scary for us,” she explains of the inspiration behind her hit “I Want To Be A Cowboy, Baby!”, before poignantly dedicating the performance to the people of Palestine.

Cheers and hollers ring out, alongside a brief chorus of “Olé, Olé, Olé”, as CMAT tells us that inevitably, the end has come. She has one more song in her though, and closes the show out with an energetic, jump-around-the-stage performance of “Stay For Something”. “This is the best night of my f*cking life,” she enthuses, exiting the stage to the Vengaboys’ “We Like To Party”. 

Few performers could get a crowd to continue dancing in their absence, but there ain’t no party like a CMAT party and none are as electric as she. 

Feature collage: IMAGE. Imagery sourced on Instagram via @cmatbaby.