Villagers live @ the Cork Opera House 23rd May 2015...

Anthony Kelly reviews Villagers at the Cork Opera House.

Sigur Ros @ The O2, Dublin – 16th November

The civilised and salubrious surroundings of the O2 hosted the return of Iceland’s most celebrated musical export, Sigur Ros, on Saturday evening. First up was Swedish trio I Break Horses who arrived on the back of a debut album that is something of an undiscovered gem; Hearts is a heady brew of dreamy shoegaze/electronica and was one of the best debut releases of 2011. Despite battling against extremely poor sound, they managed to demonstrate enough promise to suggest that their new album ‘Chiaroscuro,’ due for release in 2014, could be a belter. By the time they closed their short set with the icy synths of ‘Winter Beats’, they had all but ironed out the sonic kinks that had dogged the earlier numbers. It was a brief but captivating performance, and one that whets the appetite for a return to these shores in a smaller, more intimate venue. What can be said about Sigur Ros as a live experience that hasn’t already been said before? Tonight, they were at their mind blowing best, with a cleverly conceived set that mixed some older classics with cuts from their most recent album Kveikur.  From the moment they arrived on stage, it was clear it was going to be one of those special gigs; for ninety minutes they held the capacity crowd spellbound with a set that moved from magical and mesmerising to terrifyingly beautiful with consummate ease. Quite simply, as a live entity they are peerless – the attention to detail ensures that every song is a self-contained epic with its own unique lighting design and dazzling visual aesthetic. Jónsi stands centre stage – the dark avenging angel hunched and motionless, his silhouetted figure sawing away on his guitar, coaxing heaven and hell from just six strings. His voice remains a thing of unearthly, otherworldly beauty, an instrument that provokes awed amazement. Behind him, the band are joined by a small choir, together with brass and string sections ensuring that these songs sound as monumentally huge as they should do, filling up the cavernous spaces of the O2 with this glorious noise. The high points of the set are many – the trio of songs from arguably their best album Takk are greeted with a rapturous response, the crowd warming to ‘Hoppípolla’ in particular. They dug deep into the back catalogue with the joyous ‘Olsen, Olsen’ and the stunning ‘Svefn-g-englar’ from their breakthrough second album Ágætis byrjun. The operatic ‘Varúð’ was simply astonishing while set closer ‘Popplagið’ left the audience speechless, building from a sparse opening, to a pounding, pulsating climax, complete with eye popping visuals and guitars that threatened to lift the roof off the venue. Sigur Ros are a special band making music that connects with people in a very unique way. There are no patronising, crowd pleasing gestures, they don’t tell us how much they love us, they just play this celestial, beautiful music and eyes widen and jaws drop at the majesty that unfolds before us. One would be hard pressed to find a single soul who left the O2 on Saturday night that had not been overwhelmed by the sheer spectacle and power of the greatest live band on the planet right now. Astounding. (Photographs by kind permission of James Murray, stilpix)...

Desaparecidos live @ the Button Factory 7 February 2013...

  After treating Irish fans to a wonderful solo show on Tuesday night at the NCH, Nebraska’s finest Conor Oberst hooked up with the recently reformed Desaparecidos for a short but explosive set at Dublin’s The Button Factory on Thursday 7th February. In many ways, their brand of politically charged, post hardcore thrash seems even more relevant in these chaotic times than it did when they first hit the scene.  Desaparecidos released one album in 2002, the fantastic ‘Read Music/Speak Spanish’ before disbanding due to Obersts commitments with Bright Eyes and his solo projects. 2012 saw the release of the MariKKKopa / Backsell E.P., the bands first release in over a decade, and offered some hope that Oberst was ready to dedicate some time to this project. On the evidence of this showing, Desaparecidos could be something more than just a sideline for Oberst –this is a real band that delivered an unbelievably tight, hungry and powerful set for a group that, as Oberst confessed during the show, haven’t really rehearsed since last summer. Oberst sings and plays guitar but  there is no real sense that he is the star man –pointedly, he does not take centre stage leaving bass player and co-vocalist Landon Hedges out front. Every song from their sole album and last year’s E.P. release was greeted like a long lost friend by the fans  –scorching versions of ‘Man and Wife, The Former (Financial Planning)’,’ Greater Omaha’ and particularly ‘Backsell’ ignited the audience, who seemed to know every song word for word. Along the way, Oberst took the time to deliver pot shots at the American government, bankers and the state of Nevada but he reserved his most venomous comments for a particular Arizona lawman known for tough anti-immigration stance. Yes, we have heard this socio-political, agit-punk from other bands in the past, but it is difficult not to be swept up by the full on sonic assault and muscular riffing that underpins every Desaparecidos song. Obersts lyrics express the anger and dissatisfaction at the heart of their music as eloquently as we would expect from a song-writer of his calibre, and the music never resorts to out and out thrash, maintaining a strong melodic thrust throughout. New single ‘The Left is Right’ got an airing, and it seems that Desaparecidos have no intention of lightening things up any time soon on the evidence of this songs refrain of “ If one must die to save the 99/ Maybe it’s justified”. The band threw in a cover of ‘Spanish Bombs’ by the Clash to round off proceedings in a set that clocked in at under an hour with no encore. Let’s hope there is more to come from Desaparecidos – this was live music at its incendiary best....

The Wedding Present live @ Roisín Dubh, Galway 3 November 2012...

The Wedding Present: Seamonsters Anniversary Tour – a night of magic and wonder.