HamsandwicH Live @ St Luke’s, Cork 29th Oct 2016

The October bank holiday weekend is upon us and a familiar scourge has once again raised its ugly head in Cork. No, boys and girls, I am not talking about the Jazz. The Jazz can be avoided easily if you are not really that way inclined. Sadly it appears to me what cannot be avoided is disrespectful crowds at live music shows. The recent trend of hosting live music in former churches and cathedrals is a welcome one.

The acoustics in these old places of worship are usually top notch. The downside to this trend is that your experience is not necessarily dependant on the quality of the act you chose to see. Don’t get me wrong here; I am not for one minute suggesting that I maintain immaculate silence when I go to a gig, anyone who knows me would be only too quick to tell you that any form of prolonged silence may even be beyond me. However, there is a massive difference between leaning in to the person next to you, to say how much you like a particular song and shouting about the weather to the person on the opposite end of the row.

Getting back to business – The Church at St Luke’s was rebuilt in 1889 and is only a short walk from Cork city centre. Tonight the red stage/altar lighting over the buildings red marble pillars brings warmth to this cold but impressive structure. Cork’s own Sarah Buckley was on opening duties, accompanied by guitarist Cian. Sadly the aforementioned crowd noise meant it was not always possible to hear Sarah clearly and almost impossible to hear as she chatted between songs.

Two of Sarah’s songs in particular stood out. The gorgeous ‘Black Glove’, a song about dealing with a friends addiction and ‘Wedding Bells’ wonderfully written from the perspective of Grace Clifford, who famously married Joseph Plunket  minutes before his execution for his part in the 1916 Rising.

HamsandwicH started their set in the centre aisle of this gorgeous venue with Podge, Niamh and Darcy performing a wonderful, acoustic version of ‘Floors’ before the trio then joined the rest of the band at the altar . Sadly, they did have to ask for silence beforehand. The traditional, 5 piece, HamsandwicH line up is tonight embellished by multi-instrumentalist Donagh Malloy on trumpet, an additional pianist, cellist and violinist.

HamsandwicH are famed for their live covers and tonight’s selection certainly did not disappoint. Donna Summers’ ‘I Feel Love’ has become like part of the furniture at this stage and always sounds great; the Halloween themed cover of ‘Thriller’ (complete with Podge taking on  Vincent Price’s monologue ) went down a treat, while the inclusion of Massive Attack’s ‘Unfinished Sympathy’ proved to be an inspired addition.

The chatter from crowd died down to some extent for the remainder of the show, but it was still difficult to hear the band’s interaction with the crowd between songs. This didn’t seem to have any effect on HamsandwicH as they continued to play through 3 albums worth of hits. New tracks like ‘Renegade’, ’Apollo’ and ‘Satellite’ really excelled with the additional instrumentation, while set staples ‘Ants’, ’Oh-Oh’ and ‘Models’ had the crowds dancing in the pews.

Words by Anthony Kelly