Monday, January 18, 2010

O Emperor, Sons of Noel and Adrian in Dolan's

There is something very refreshing and rewarding about going to a gig without doing much in the way of research, having your socks blown off by a couple of bands that you really don't know much about; like, for example, the fact that Alessi's Ark is signed to EMI and Sons of Noel and Adrian are part of a massive, artistic group called the Wilkommen Collective, and boast a member of the now defunct Hope of the States among their ranks.
But knowing a band's background is not linked to their performance abilities - and in this case, knowing less was more.
This was Waterford band O Emperor's first national tour, and had invited Sons of Noel and Adrian and Alessi's Ark to tour with them - with the UK bands returning the favour by having the Irish quintet tour with them in the UK next week. Considering Sons of.. are ranked among some of the biggest upcoming bands in the UK - they have toured with fellow folkies Mumford and Sons and last year played with Efterklang and Laura Marling - this is nothing to be sneezed at.
The three bands played Upstairs in Dolan's last (Sunday) night - and boy was it heartwarming to see a decent crowd turn up to see them.
Hammersmith's Alessi Laurent-Marke was up first, her winsome girl with a guitar act turning out to be rather impressive. But it was for her last couple of songs, for which she was joined by some of Sons of Noel and Adrian, that her folksy with an edge songs filled out to their maximum potential.
The "folk-experimental" seven-piece Sons of.. followed - their quirky moniker explained simply - "his dad's name is Noel, mine's is Adrian, and they are both nice blokes, so we decided to name the band after them".
In between song banter is not a speciality of this band, but when the songs are this good, who cares? Unassuming, dapper - some were wearing vintage clothing, adding to the effect of the show - and clearly very musically talented, Sons of.. proceed to play 45 minutes of superb folk-rock, complete with whistles, foot-stomping and epic peaks and troughs in their music.
The performance was reminiscent of Arcade Fire but the music nothing similar; we had instead elements of Iron and Wine, Noah and the Whale and even Lemonjelly - filled with instrumental pauses, crescendo finishes and dark theatrical elements. 'The Wreck is Not A Boat' was a particular highlight.
As one visibly impressed attendee remarked afterward - "they were all playing instruments and singing and stomping their feet at the same time". Indeed.
The main act of the evening were hotly tipped Waterford band O Emperor, who read from a song book that includes Grizzly Bear, Fleet Foxes and Radiohead - but has more in common with The Band or Neil Young - a gritty and raw electric energy permeating their varied songs.
Their set began ever-so-slightly ragged, not helped by the fact that lead singer Paul Savage seemed to be nursing a bit of a sore throat, but by the third song "Ghosts of My Heart", we were hooked. Intertwining three part - at times five-part - vocal harmonies, Savage revealed that the song was only written "last week, for the tour", but burned bright with a Wilco-type energy, Savage boasting a bit of a Tweedy growl as he relaxed into the song.
Don't Mind Me was an early highlight, the entire band joining together to sing the refrain - a subdued, slow-burner of a song. The more energetic To The Sea was followed by the excellent Don Quixote, more upbeat but more in the Radiohead variety - off signature rhythms and brooding beats.
The superb single Po is in a similar vein and was the best song the set, but the band abruptly changed tack with their last song - 'Fat Lady' - a gritty, electric guitar groove that was different to everything that went before it. Looks like O Emperor have a nicely varied sound to go with their bags of potential. You will be seeing these guys on much, much bigger stages in the very near future, trust us.

1 comment:

IndieLimerick said...

Great Great Gig! I Have a review on my blog also