The Twilight Sad Live @ Whelans, Dublin 2nd May 2015...

Scottish outfit The Twilight Sad rolled into town last Saturday to present their own brand of Post Punk miserabilia before a Dublin audience for the first time since 2013. The weather gods could not have chosen a more fitting headline act – the relentlessly gloomy weather seemed rather apt for a band that cite ‘drinking and making miserable music’ as their most enjoyable pursuits on their Twitter bio. Though not a full house, a very respectable crowd turned up at Whelan’s to pay homage – with four very fine albums behind them since forming in 2003, the Twilight Sad are beginning to build up a dedicated live following. Opening with ‘There’s A Girl in The Corner’ from their most recent record, the broodingly powerful ‘Nobody Wants to Be Here and Nobody Wants To Leave’,  The Twilight Sad delivered a tight and powerful set, drawing mainly from their new album, but containing a liberal sprinkling of material stretching back to their 2007 debut. Singer James Alexander Graham’s compelling if slightly contrived stage presence provided the main focal point as the band whipped up an impressive maelstrom of Post Punk noise before a very receptive Dublin audience. Graham was moved to remark that the show was ‘exactly what the band needed at this point’ in what seems like a long and arduous tour. The set was well paced, with no discernible lulls and plenty of highlights – ‘Last January’, ‘I Became A Prostitute’ and ‘The Wrong Car’ all raised the roof but it was the trio of songs from their debut album ‘Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters’ that turned out to be the big winners on the night. These three songs proved to be the most dramatic and dynamic songs in the set, with Graham’s voice showcased at its...

Delorentos Live @The Savoy, Cork 18th April 2015...

Anthony Kelly witnesses one of Ireland’s most consistently brilliant live acts, Dublin’s Delerentos.

Elastic Sleep Live @ Mother Jones Flea Market, Cork 5 April 2015...

Anthony Kelly is impressed by Cork shoegazers Elastic Sleep live in Cork on Easter Sunday.

Echo and the Bunnymen Live @ The Olympia Theatre, Dublin 18 Feb 2015...

How many of us can pinpoint the exact moment we fell in love with music, the precise point in time when we ceased to be a casual fan and became completely and utterly smitten? For me that moment came on the 7 December 1985. Still in my teens and harbouring a growing interest in music, I went along to the now defunct SFX venue on Dublin’s northside. A live music virgin, Echo and the Bunnymen would be the second gig I ever attended; my previous sole foray having been a particularly uncomfortable night surrounded by screaming teens at a Frankie Goes To Hollywood show. But the Bunnymen represented something different, and that night turned out to be something of a life changing experience. I walked away from that show consumed with the idea of playing in a band; the power and majesty of the Bunnymen that night was the catalyst for me to pick up a guitar, an act that completely altered and shaped the direction my life took for the next 13 years. Given all that, the return of Echo and the Bunnymen to Dublin some thirty years after that show was always going to hold personal significance.  My love affair with their music has endured to this day, but with that, there is always that nervous anxiety around seeing returning idols all these years later. Of the original line-up, only singer Ian McCulloch and guitarist Will Sergeant remain; the core creative force perhaps, but anyone who witnessed that 85 show will testify to the marked contribution made by bassist Les Pattison and the sadly departed Pete DeFreitas to the bands sound. Some twenty minutes late, the newest incarnation of the Bunnymen take to the Olympia stage – the early signs are promising.  A blistering version of the title track off their...

A Winged Victory For The Sullen live @ the Pavilion Theatre 10 February 2015...

Magic in the air: A Winged Victory for the Sullen at their bewitching best live at the Pavillion Theatre, Dun Laoghaire.

Angel Olsen live @ Whelans 6 June 2014...

This promised to be one of those special nights – Angel Olsen arrived for the first of three Irish dates having released one of the year’s most striking albums. ‘Burn Your Fire for No Witness’ won her a legion of new admirers – Olsen’s searing, confessional intensity and raw, elemental approach to making music seems to have struck a chord with music fans tired of slick, over produced rock devoid of any real substance. Whelan’s was near capacity when Olsen and her band took to the stage – there was no fuss, no fanfare, they just arrived, plugged in and started to play. The first thing you notice is that voice – it is a potent weapon, capable of moving from the sweetest yearning to a full on impassioned cry in the blink of an eye. The band faithfully replicates the low-fi indie country vibe of the records – at times, it was like listening to Patsy Cline fronting the Velvet Underground as Olsen pulled together a set comprising of songs from each of her three albums. Old favourites ‘Tiniest Lights’ and ‘Miranda’ bore up pretty well while ‘Lights Out’, ‘Stars’ and ‘High and Wild’ from her most recent album predictably drew the biggest cheers of the night. After about an hour, the band departed and Olsen took centre stage – for fifteen minutes, she held the audience absolutely spellbound with stripped back versions of three of her songs. The highlight was an absolutely stunning version of ‘White Fire’ – this was Olsen at her most effective; every hoarse whisper and anguished cry tightened her grip on an already captive audience. There was very little of the annoying audience chatter that seems to mar most gigs in Dublin these days, a testament to the...

Chelsea Wolfe – The Sugar Club, 24th April...

The intimate confines of the Sugar Club proved to be the perfect setting for Californian singer-songwriter Chelsea Wolfe on her first visit to these shores. In front of a near full house, Wolfe delivered a spellbinding set, mixing the ethereal Goth-folk of her most recent album with the more abrasive art rock of her earlier material. She opened with a number of cuts from ‘Unknown Rooms: A Collection of Acoustic Songs’ – the delicate and eerie ‘Spinning Centres’ and the yearning ‘Flatlands’ instantly grabbing the attention of the audience. Wolfe cuts an imposing figure on stage; tall and statuesque with long black hair, she is a striking and captivating presence and by the time she got around to playing the sinister, sickly ‘Boyfriend’ she had the audience mesmerised, even managing to silence the usual inane bar chatter that is such an unfortunate part of the gig going experience. The arrival of a drummer and guitarist signalled a shift in emphasis for the rest of the set – a brief, instrumental guitar noise workout broke the spell and all of a sudden, we were plunged into the glorious darkness of her second album ‘Apokalypsis’. Songs like ‘Mer’ and ‘Moses’ have a dark, sexual allure recalling some of PJ Harvey’s early work; Wolfe seemed somehow more at home delivering these songs than some of the quieter numbers. The magnificent ‘Movie Screen’ with its layered vocal loops and otherworldly noises was scarily good while the crashing guitar chords of ‘Pale On Pale’ built to the obligatory feedback drenched climax, bringing down the curtain on an impressive and beguiling set. Wolfe and her band returned to the stage for a two song encore, satisfying the appreciative audience’s thirst to hear more. Largely unknown in this part of the...

Live Review: San Fermin @ Whelan’s, 16th April 2014...

San Fermin created quite a stir with the release of their self-titled debut album late last year. The brainchild of the classically trained Brooklyn based Ellis Ludwig-Leone, it was something of a baroque pop masterpiece and was instantly hailed as such. Ludwig-Leone fused elements of pop, rock, jazz and classical to create something that was strikingly different, a sprawling and complex work that met with the approval of critics and music fans alike. It was always going to be interesting to see how they would recreate this in a live setting, particularly in the narrow confines of a small club venue like Whelan’s. Last night, we got our answer as the Wexford St venue welcomed San Fermin for their first ever Dublin show. With eight musicians on the cramped stage, San Fermin put in a barnstorming display with a looser, more celebratory interpretation of the album to the delight of a near capacity audience. In comparison to the more austere version of these songs as presented on the record, San Fermin live was a very different experience, with a greater emphasis on rhythm and the more dance-y side of their music. Many of the short, more avant garde instrumental pieces that peppered the album were left out, ensuring that the set maintained momentum from start to finish. They opened with the dramatic ‘Renaissance!’ before launching into big crowd favourite ‘Sonsick’, the perfect showcase for the considerable vocal talents of recent live recruit Charlene Kaye and their catchiest pop song by some distance. With trumpet, sax and violin in the lineup, all the little flourishes and melodic embellishments that made the album so striking were adeptly and faithfully recreated. On ‘Casanova’, it was Allen Tate’s rich baritone voice that took centre stage, another song that...

65daysofstatic live @ The Button Factory, Dublin 18 January 2014...

Let’s get the rant out of the way first – the Dublin gig going experience is become an increasingly depressing affair. The idiots who think purchasing a ticket entitles them to chatter incessantly throughout the whole show are making life miserable for audience and bands alike. It’s disrespectful, rude and quite frankly, a massive pain in the arse for those who go along to see AND hear a band they have paid good money for. Rant over. Now, on to the show, and despite having to contend with a gaggle of guffawing buffoons, 65daysofstatic delivered a tight, punchy set that really hammered home just how good last year’s Wild Light album is. Though not sold out, there was a decent crowd at the Button Factory to welcome the Sheffield quartet back after a lengthy absence from these shores. Calling them a Post Rock band is slightly misleading – yes, they do play instrumental, guitar based Rock music, but they don’t adhere religiously to the Post Rock blueprint. Lengthy, slow building intros are eschewed, as 65daysofstatic go for the jugular straight from the off with their dense, rhythmic and muscular sound. There is a genuine attempt to engage with the audience, again marking them apart from their more sullen, remote Post Rock compatriots. They begin the set with the awesome opening cut from their Wild Light album – ‘Heat Death Infinity Splitter’ sounded like the end of the world; the slow-mo, drum heavy beat and sci-fi synths achieving maximum impact and from that point on, there was no let up. The occasional piano interlude in the middle of a song gave the audience time to catch their breath but older songs like ‘Dance, Dance, Dance’ and ‘Radio Protector’ were high octane affairs, and the band...

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....

Mono live @The Button Factory 6th December 2012...

Japanese post-rock outfit Mono slipped quietly into town last week for a show that bore all the hallmarks of a secret gig. Very little advance publicity led to a surprisingly low turnout for a band that released one of the very best albums of the last five years. Released in 2009, the superb Hymn to the Immortal Wind still stands as a towering, majestic achievement – terrifying and beautiful in equal measure, with eloquent string-drenched passages giving way to pulverising guitar and drums based climaxes. Early indications are that new album For My Parents continues in the same vein as its illustrious predecessor so it was always going to be interesting to see how Mono distilled the heavily orchestrated and cinematic sound of their most recent two albums down to just a four piece band. As it happened, they managed it pretty impressively – there were plenty of stirring moments of epic grandeur and stunning emotional peaks. Without the full orchestral arrangements that were such an integral part of Hymn to the Immortal Wind, it was left to the dual guitars of Takaakira Goto and Hideki Suematsu to wring as much emotion out of these songs as possible, and they did this as best as could be expected. Like so much post-rock instrumental music, all of the songs start off with sparse, simple guitar motifs, before building and building to the mother of all climaxes – Mono stuck pretty closely to this blueprint, but without the subtle variations provided by the addition of a full orchestra on their recent records, it did sound a little repetitive at times. Opening with the first three numbers from their new album, it took a while for the crowd to warm up – Mono are not a band...

Exitmusic live @ Whelans 10th November 2012

Every once in a while, you witness a live band that reduces you to rubble. An incoherent, speechless mess. You walk away from the venue wondering what just happened. On a Saturday night in Whelan’s, a small but appreciative crowd were lucky enough to witness just such a band. They are called Exitmusic and they hail from Brooklyn. They released an album in 2012 called Passage and it is very good indeed. As good as the record is, nothing prepares you for the searing white hot intensity of the band in the flesh. Singer Alexsa Palladino cuts a slight, almost delicate figure on stage. But once she opens her mouth to sing, she is transformed into a dark angel, a destroyer of hearts with a voice that eviscerates and obliterates, moving from a soft hush to a banshee wail in the blink of an eye. Husband and co-founder of the band Devon Church adds subtle guitar shadowplay and sheets of glorious white noise in equal measure. Opening with a chilling version of ‘The Sea’ off their From The Silence EP, there was no let up as the band ramped up the intensity levels to almost unbearable levels over the course of an hour long set. Most of the material was drawn from the Passage album, so we got spine tingling versions of ‘The Modern Age’, ‘White Noise’ and ‘The Night’; the darkness at the heart of these songs amplified one thousand times over in a live setting. A major highlight was the title track from Passage; a song that on record could be interpreted as a tad melodramatic but live makes complete and utter sense. At times, it felt like the narrow confines of Whelan’s struggled to contain such a huge, all encompassing sound – this is a band that packs quite an emotional wallop. Palladino’s voice is their most potent weapon –it is hard to recall a singer that has such a visceral impact in a live context – closest reference point must be Jonsi from Sigur Ros, and the similarities between the two bands don’t end there. Exitmusic’s use of subtle electronic textures and great walls of guitar noise make them kindred spirits with their Icelandic counterparts. They finish the set on a beautifully downbeat note, Palladino singing ‘we are sparks of light but we hide it’ providing an emotional and affecting end to one of the best gigs seen on these shores in recent times. Yes, it really was that good – next time around, mark them down as...

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

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

Beach House Live @ Vicar Street 28 October 2012...

On the back of two of the best albums of the last five years, Baltimore duo Beach House returned to Dublin and a predictably sold out Vicar Street riding the crest of a wave. If third album Teenage Dream heralded their arrival as serious contenders, this year’s Bloom was conclusive proof that Beach House are currently at the peak of their considerable powers. They have built their reputation on a richly layered brand of hazy dream pop, anchored by the commanding voice and presence of singer Victoria Legrand.  With an expanded line-up of three for the live shows, Beach House delivered a competent set, but if truth be told, the show was a little bit disappointing, lacking any real major peaks or excitement. It is hard to pinpoint why it felt like something of a letdown –Legrand was in fine voice, the music was tight and the sound was pretty good. It just seemed to lack that special ingredient that turns a good live show into a great one. Opening with ‘Wild’, the bulk of the set was plucked  from their last two albums but there was a treat for fans of second album Devotion when they played ‘Gila’ early on. Crowd pleasers like ‘Zebra’,  ‘The Hours’ ‘Take Care’ and the wonderful  ‘Myth’ were all gleefully lapped up by their adoring fans with closer ’10 Mile Stereo’ going down particularly well.  The band returned for just one encore, the hypnotic ‘Irene’ and that was it. For the whole concert, Victoria Legrand remained rooted behind her keyboard at the back of the stage, radiating cool, icy detachment with the other two musicians stationed out front. While not expecting Iggy Pop like theatrics, there was no real sense of connection with the audience, and in a...

Japandroids live @ The Workmans Club 16 August 2012...

It has been three years since Vancouver duo Japandroids last played Dublin to a handful of people as a support act with A Place To Bury Strangers in Whelans.  How times have changed. Hot on the heels of the release of their critically acclaimed second album, ‘Celebration Rock’, they brought their two man show back to the Workmans Club, and while not exactly full to the rafters, there was a palpable buzz of anticipation amongst those that had gathered.  Japandroids are hot at the moment, and a very mixed crowd of the devout and the curious were here to witness whether they could translate their unique brand of Geek Rock to a live setting. Opening with ‘The Boys are leaving Town’ from debut album ‘Post Nothing’, Japandroids set about delivering a set of no nonsense, balls out rock – their manifesto is simple – loud guitars, pounding drums and shouty vocals delivered with energy and full on passion. So did they exceed our expectations? Well not quite. The show lacked a certain something, never truly igniting. Perhaps it was the limitations of a two piece guitar act – no bass guitar meant the set lacked a little thunder – the sole guitar was loud but never really powerful and at times the vocals were a little flat and lacking oomph – never more evident than on their one real mid-tempo song ‘Continuous Thunder’ which should have been anthemic but just sounded tired and listless. There were some great moments – ‘The House that Heaven Built’ came close to lift off – the band readily acknowledged that this was the one song that probably dragged a lot of the audience along to the show, and the response of the crowd seemed to bear that out....