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...

Los Campesinos! – No Blues...

We don’t deserve a band like Los Campesinos! For the last seven years now, they have been pouring their heart and soul into making this raucous, exuberant and curiously life affirming racket while we continue to reserve our affections for those less deserving of our love and respect. Seven years and five wonderful albums later, we continue to feign indifference, blithely ignoring these songs that make the heart swell, these symphonic pop anthems about the things that really matter – love, life, sex, death, it’s all in here. This is most definitely pop music, but there is an eloquence, wit and intelligence inherent in the song-writing that can get lost in the great surge of sound that is Los Campesinos! through and through. No Blues is their fifth album and is right up there with their very best – and their very best is very good indeed. A song like ‘For Flotsam’ defies us to remain indifferent, to remain steadfast as a chorus of gargantuan proportions threatens to sweep us off our feet. It doesn’t end there; ‘What Death Leaves Behind’ may be the first song in the history of pop to have the word ‘tautology’ in the chorus (they still make it sound insanely catchy), while ‘Avocada, Baby’ is probably the greatest song ever to compare the human heart to the fruit also known as the Alligator Pear. Gareth Paisey is the principal lyricist and lead vocalist – he delivers these songs with bags of passion, wringing every last ounce of pathos from these words that often seem wrapped up in a kind of faux hurt. Technically, he may not be the strongest vocalist you will ever hear, but hey, we will take passion, wit and eloquence every time over note perfect automatons....