High-energy ‘pub concert’ brings a pint of cheer just when we need it

With omnicron raging, the holidays behind us and the dark, cold days of winter settling around our ears, a welcome blast of relief just arrived at the Denver Center. It comes in the  form of nine guys ready to sing, dance and joke our way to at least 90 minutes of relief.

The Choir of Man is about as simple a concept for a musical-like thing you can imagine: Bring the tradition of an Irish pub to the stage to celebrate the song, dance, camaraderie and, yes, beer that can pry us out from in front our screens to enjoy time with others in one place.

With several casts out touring the world, one of them is in short residence at the Denver Center through Sunday, and it’s well worth bellying up to the bar with this group of guys. From the get-go, the cast establishes a connection to the audience and manages to conjure up an intimate setting even in the cavernous Buell. They’re quick to get the audience clapping and singing along to a curious mix of Irish drinking songs, moldy oldies, more recent hits and a few traditional songs intermixed with poetry, high-energy dance and a lot of beer-swilling and mug clanking.

Part barbershop, part boy band (with a lot more facial hair) and with a good deal of poetic license in how the songs are interpreted, there’s a whole lot of male energy — the good kind. These are the guys you wished were up the street at the pub where you could go in, have a pint, talk about your troubles, watch the game and forget about the shit-show outside for just a bit. The action is moved along by “The Poet” (Conor Hanley), who narrates, tells us about the other guys and their lives and contributes readings of verse.

Ed Tunningley and Jahlil Burke in ‘The Choir of Man’

Other characters include “The Hard Man” (Adam Bayjou), “The Romantic” (a golden-voiced Mark Irwin) and “The Beast” (Ed Tunningley) — a gentle, hirsute teddy bear who’s also a gifted guitarist.

The lads, Hanley tells us, hail from small towns in Ireland or Wales as well as big cities like New York and London. As an ensemble, they serve up beautiful harmonies and powerful solos alongside a whole lot of clapping, stomping, strutting and posturing. In the space of 90 minutes, they successfully let the audience know who they are in this choir of men — as individuals and as part of this small community.

Along the way, The Poet speaks of the importance of gathering in a place like a pub, mourning the loss of many such places to the pandemic, glowing screens and like. The set perfectly establishes us in “The Jungle” pub, and the first big number is a wondrous and wildly inventive interpretation of Guns N’ Roses’ “Welcome to the Jungle.” Other numbers include “Under the Bridge” (Red Hot Chili Peppers), “500 Miles” (traditional), “Hello” (Adele), “Escape (the piña colada song) and, perhaps the oddest choice, “Fifty Ways to Lose Your Lover” — arguably Paul Simon’s worst song but made much more enjoyable by this crew.

Presented without intermission, the 90 minutes spent with The Choir of Man seemed to fly by, and as we streamed back out into the cold, it felt like we’d collectively shared something pretty special together as an audience with these talented lads. With only two shows left and plenty of good seats to be had, I’d highly recommend this one as a pretty great “covid shot” to immunize you from the blues — if just fo