Irish songbird Mary Black admits that it seems somewhat strange she’s playing concerts in America on a so-called “Last Call” farewell tour that began three years ago. But she has an explanation. “This is the second leg of the tour,” she says. “We never played San Francisco, just Berkeley, and people were crying out for us to come back to places that we’d missed. So when you threaten to retire, suddenly everyone wants to see you. It’s a good trick.” She’s backing a 30th-anniversary remastered reissue of her 1987 classic “By the Time It Gets Dark” and her daughter Roisin, performing as Roisin O, is opening the shows, then joining mom onstage during her set.
Is it really Last Call already?
Well, the reason why I chose that name is that it’s also in a song I recorded many years ago called “Ellis Island,” and the lyrics are “Last call for Ellis Island,” because someone is saying goodbye to somebody on the pier as they’re going to America. So it’s like, “These are the last words I’m ever going to hear you say.” And I’ve done my “Last Call” in England, all over Europe, Australia and Japan. It’s been a busy few years.
Will you just sit around in Dublin, twiddling your thumbs afterwards?
Definitely not. I still tour in Ireland, so that’s kept me busy. I had a big show there recently where me and The Black Family — me and my three brothers (Shay, Michael, and Martin) and my sister Frances — got together and did some gigs, just like we did it 30 years ago. And we stood up unaccompanied on Ireland’s “The Late, Late Show” and sang “Colcannon,” a traditional song my auntie and gran used to sing, a song about food. Colcannon is a dish made from cabbage and potatoes and onions, all mashed up together. We used to eat it around Halloween. But I’ve said I will do certain projects if the notion took me. I don’t like to completely cut off all ties.
How cool is it to perform with your daughter?
It’s really nice. And it’s a great experience for her; she’s been doing it now for a few years, and she’s developed so much as an artist since we started to do that. She’s singing all her own songs now, and she’s working on a second album. But I always told my kids to really put your shoulder into it and work hard if this is what you really want. And my son Danny is No. 1 this week in Ireland with his band The Coronas, and he worked hard for it. This is the first time they’ve gone No. 1, and it’s on their own label, too.
IF YOU GO
Mary Black, with Roisin O
Where: Great American Music Hall, 859 O’Farrell St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Aug. 13
Contact: (415) 885-0750, www.eventbrite.com