The Corrs Ulster Hall, Belfast

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The Independent Culture
As Jimmy Nail's Crocodile Shoes saga becomes increasingly preposterous in its plotlines and characters, along come the Corrs to prove that, vis- a-vis fiction, truth always has a trick up its sleeve. Currently riding a rollercoaster bandwagon of million-plus worldwide sales for their debut album Forgiven Not Forgotten, the story goes that a chance encounter with Jean Kennedy-Smith, America's ambassador to Ireland, leads to a prestige gig in Boston, which leads in turn - via some serious blagging - into Michael Jackson's Manhattan studio, where an impromptu performance for Jackson producer David Foster yields the fairytale "sign here" scenario and thence to one of the most perfect, gilt-edged pop records of the decade.

The group are three sisters and a brother - all in their 20s - from Dundalk, on the Irish border. Jim Corr, who paid his dues around the cabaret circuit in Ireland for years, plays guitar and keyboards, Sharon plays violin and Caroline drums while Andrea sings like an angel, struts like a peacock and dabbles a bit on tin whistle. Just like a Jimmy Nail script, they're all likeable girl/bloke-next-door types, but the real-life music business doesn't award prizes for being nice or even having talent. It helps that the Corrs are all natural pin-up types, but their real achievement is in creating a totally fresh, intoxicating sound out of a bundle of influences that seem on paper to be at best incongruous, at worst old hat, and a set of wonderful, simple, anthemic pop songs with harmonies and arrangements to melt the hardest of hearts.

In between the anthems, on record, the group weave in snatches of the traditional tunes they grew up with. On stage, with a virtual home crowd going bananas for the stuff, they go further, and, with or without their backing musicians, revel in the sort of tunes that Fairport Convention were trailing round the English college circuit a quarter of a century back. Irish equivalents from that era such as Horslips are still fondly remembered here, but it remains incredible that somebody can come along out of nowhere with a fully fledged stadium show of what is essentially Seventies folk-rock with a Nineties gloss. Even the group's own songs, upon rigorous analysis, chart lineage back to Bad Company and the like, but, just as Roxette did in the Eighties, the Corrs have found the alchemy of welding classic pop melodies with worn-in rock riffing to make a joyous and saleable new creation.

On stage, the groups' personalities come across well, with Andrea especially conveying a sensuality infinitely more real and reachable than, say, Madonna (with whom she appears in Evita). None of the Corrs are exceptional musicians, but just like the Beatles or The Who, they have a chemistry together that towers above virtuosity and a songcraft that, while simple, has the sheen of longevity about it. Songs such as "The Right Time", "Forgiven Not Forgotten" and "Someday (You'll Forget Me)" transcend fashion, demographics and genre, and while Britain remains the last bastion of resistance, it must surely only be a matter of time