Live Review: ‘Other Voices’ Thursday @ St. James Church, Dingle

Posted: 14/12/2011 in Uncategorized

***As published on on December 2nd 2011***

Other Voices – the festival which is born and bred in Kerry but has caught the attention and imagination of the world – has produced some magical musical moments. Over the course of several days in early December some of the most renowned artists, both home-grown and international, descend upon Dingle to play in the tiny confines of St. James Church – a grand tradition, which makes for fantastic viewing when broadcasting – but the opportunity to experience the live recording takes the magic to a whole new level. 2011 marks the tenth year of the series and as we’ve come to expect, the calibre of acts is second to none.

The stage is set in St. James’ Church under a magnificent display of lights, with decorative hearts adorning the surrounding walls. The driving force behind the series since its inception all those years ago, Philip King, welcomes revellers with an impassioned speech (or sermon, if you will) about the history of the event, recounting tales from its foundation through the early years to the defining moments. But what’s at the centre of it all is the music, says King – “it’s the heart of the matter”. And no truer words could have been said in relation to what was to follow.

Truir are first to take to the stage – somewhat of a traditional Irish music super-group comprising of Peadar O’Riada, Martin Hayes and Caoimhin O’Raghallaigh. All acclaimed musicians in their own right, the three joined forces last year to produce an album of O’Riada’s original compositions, and tonight the audience of St. James’ Church are treated to the highlights. The dual violins of Hayes and O’Raghallaigh combine to compliment the concertina of O’Riada as they work their way through a series of jigs, reels, and slides. Their banter between tunes is jovial, the quip that “the most famous traditional Irish music tunes are always the ones that everyone knows how to play but nobody knows who wrote them” conjuring up laughs around the chapel. For the closing song, Hayes and O’Raghallaigh depart and O’Riada invites his long-time friend and the man with “an guth is fear sa tír” to join him – Iarla O Lionaird, singing as Gaeilge with accompaniment from the lone harmonium of O’Riada – a captivating close to the set.

Other Voices has a habit of enticing major international acts to come to perform in Dingle, and tonight we are treated to the presence ofSt. Vincent. Oklahoma’s Annie Clark had The Button Factory spellbound a fortnight ago with an outstanding show backed up by a full band and a mesmerising light show – but tonight in St. James’ Curch, it’s just one woman and her guitar. And really, with such immense talent, there’s not much else needed. St Vincent is an incredible presence – she exudes a natural glow, and the audience are entranced from the moment she strikes her first chord. She proceeds to delight with a series of songs from her most recent release Strange Mercy – a brief set comprising of ‘Surgeon’, ‘Cheerleader’, ‘Year of the Tiger’ and ‘Cruel’. Anecdotes between songs signify that her charm is a match for her talent, which really says a lot. St Vincent departs, with an almost immediate venture back to mainland Europe to rejoin her tour imminent – her time in Dingle may have been short, but it was oh so very sweet.

Following a brief interval it’s the turn of Little Green Cars to take the spotlight in St. James’ Church. One of the most exciting emerging Irish acts of the moment, long-time ‘ones to watch’ LGC have garnered much attention in 2011 as raw talent has evolved into stellar songwriting and tightly honed musicianship far beyond their years. The band have two incredible lead vocalists in the form of Faye O’Rourke and Stevie Appleby – but really, it’s the entire package which makes them a force to be reckoned with. Notably absent is ‘The John Wayne’, the debut single which they released this summer on UK based label Young and Lost Club – but their multi-part harmonies dazzle throughout the set, which culminates in the formidable ‘My Love Took Me Down To The River (To Silence Me). The world awaits.

“We’re not a cool enough band for this kind of gig – but we’re delighted to be here!” announces Danny O’Reilly of The Coronas. Well Danny, platinum-selling status and a run of five (soon to be six) forthcoming sold out shows in The Olympia would be deemed pretty dam cool by a lot of peoples standards. The Coronas do what they do well, and perform with admirable passion and conviction. Opening with ‘Someone Else’s Hands’, the standout song from 2009’s Tony Was an Ex-Con, the set offers up some of the best of their catalogue to date. ‘Blind Will Lead The Blind’ from latest release Closer To You conveys a welcome deviation in style, and an emphatic performance of the album’s title track is the highlight of the set. The band have a special affiliation with Dingle having spent time much writing and recording here, and fittingly pay tribute to the fact with a rendition of ‘Heroes or Ghosts’ as Gaeilge.

There’s palpable anticipation for the closing act of the night. Undeniably one of Ireland’s most outstanding acts, with a career spanning three decades and a multi-platinum selling back-catalogue to their credit, The Frames take to the stage in St. James Church and launch into a stunning rendition of ‘Fitzcaraldo’. Glen Hansard makes reference to the band’s performance in local pub McCarthy’s the previous night, apologising for his voice being “well and truly f*cked” – but there’s little sign of strain as ‘God Bless Mom’ is subsequently played out and falsetto notes are hit spot-on. Colm Mac Con Iomaire’s violin playing is as usual a thing of wonder throughout, adding an extra element of beauty to the songs of The Frames.

A malfunctioning pedal feels the wrath of Hansard during ‘Revelate’, putting his electric guitar out of commission for its remainder. He goes acoustic for an impromptu rendition of ‘The Auld Triangle’ as technical issues are ironed out, the band joining in gradually to back him up and the audience sharing vocal duties for the final chorus – a very special moment. Timeless classic ‘Lay Me Down’ follows, before a moving tribute is paid to the late Mic Christopher, and an epic performance of ‘Santa Maria’ rocks the tiny church to its core and brings the set and the evening to a close. Electrical equipment can and will fail – but what will never falter is the passion that The Frames pour into their music; when it flows through your veins, you don’t need to rely on an effects pedal to express it. And that, as Philip King said, is what is at the heart of it all.

(All photos by James Goulden)

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