Live Review: Bell X1 @ Vicar Street, April 7th 2011

Posted: 27/04/2011 in Uncategorized

Bloodless Coup has garnered considerable praise since its release, but as with any new Bell X1 album it’s always interesting to see how the tracks translate into a live setting. ‘Hey Anna Lena’ makes for a compelling opening to tonight’s show – a powerful vocal performance from Paul Noonan, and the gradual build of the song conveyed to perfection by the band as a unit. ‘Velcro’ and ‘Nightwatchmen’ also impress – the former letting the crowd find their voice, in contrast to the latter commanding somewhat of an awed silence. An acoustic rendition of ‘The Trailing Skirts of God’ is a highlight – a perfect example of how the quirky Irish colloquialisms which permeate Bell X1’s lyrics allow them to engage with their home crowd on a unique level.

It’s not all positive for the new material, however – David Geraghty’s lead vocal coup with ‘Built to Last’ falls flat, un-aided by an audience who used the duration of the song as a window to either have a chat, or make a beeline for the bar. It’s almost as if the band gauged in advance that this might be the case – immediately after comes the ultimate Bell X1 crowd-pleaser, ‘Rocky Took a Lover’.

The best of the band’s back-catalogue is on show tonight – renditions of both ‘Bad Skin Day’ and ‘I’ll See Your Heart & I’ll Raise You Mine’ are strikingly poignant, before an epic performance of ‘Tongue’ completely steals the show. Lengthy instrumental segments add a new twist to some of the vintage songs – most notably Geraghty’s impressive piano outro on ‘My First Born for a Song’. The show comes to a close with an enthralling stripped-back take on ‘Eve, The Apple Of My Eye’, culminating in a beautiful vocal interplay between Noonan and his capacity crowd of backing singers.

Interestingly, The Great Defector is the only track from 2009’s Blue Lights on the Runway to make it onto the setlist, and the songs of debut album Neither Am I are completely ignored. The duo of Vicar Street dates are the starting point of a tour which will take Bell X1 across Europe and America throughout the summer. There are definitely creases to be ironed out along the way – but with the tight execution of a strong setlist complimented by an impressive lighting and visuals setup (and of course Paul Noonan’s ever-entertaining dance moves), there’s potential for this show to go from being very good to great.

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