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No repeat of walkout by fans as star Prine returns in fine voice

By Ivan Little

Two times Grammy-winning singer/songwriter John Prine has put to bed the nightmare of his last Belfast concert four years ago when dozens of his fans walked out.

The exodus started shortly after the American star came on stage at the Waterfront Hall in March 2013 when it was clear his voice was extremely weak.

Prine, who put his problems down to laryngitis, apologised to the audience and struggled on to the end of his set.

It was later revealed that he had resisted calls from his own management team to pull out of the concert, saying he didn't want to disappoint his fans.

However, a number of people who stormed out demanded refunds, claiming that the show should never have gone on because it was distressing to hear his obvious discomfort.

Prine, whose most famous compositions include the anti-war song Sam Stone and Angel from Montgomery and who counts Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen among his admirers, later did have to cancel a number of concerts.

On his return to a Belfast stage this week it was clear that Prine hadn't forgotten the Waterfront show.

"I was in bad shape," he told a packed Ulster Hall. "I just didn't feel good. I went to the doctor after that."

Several months later, the 70-year-old singer, who had already beaten throat cancer, was diagnosed with lung cancer though he has since been given the all-clear after surgery.

Prine is married to a Donegal woman, Fiona Whelan, who was in the audience along with her mother at a concert in the Millennium Forum in Londonderry earlier this week.

Fiona wasn't at the show in Belfast and her husband said she'd developed a heavy cold ,which he added was the last thing he needed.

John Prine told his Ulster Hall audience that he had brought his sons to Belfast last summer for an overnight visit when they explored the city and 'ate fish.'

Prine spends part of the year in a house he owns in Kinvara, Co Galway, where he regularly joins local musicians for sessions in pubs in the picturesque village.

At the Ulster Hall fans gave Prine a standing ovation.

One woman, who had walked out from the Waterfront gig in 2013, said: "That's all water under the bridge now.

"The man is a legend and I'm glad he's back on form."

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