Adebisi Shank, O Emperor, Heathers & Carried By Waves @ The Pavilion, Cork
“…A fitting end to a set by a band that reminds us all why they’re the absolute best this country has to offer right now…”
Cork’s Pavilion looks as stately as ever tonight for the first leg of the First Music Contact tour 2011, and even if the initial crowd is somewhat threadbare, there’s something about the venue that still creates a buzz for any band about to set foot on it. And no bones about it, the bill tonight is a cracker, with Adebisi topping the bill for their first gig Leeside since The Second Album saw release and waves of critical acclaim.
In an unadvertised appearance, Carried By Waves opens the show up, peering pensively over his laptop at the sound booth before proceeding to conjure up some ghostly, ethereal atmospherics that hit that much harder in a near-empty venue. The swell builds up into skittish, driving electro that lets in shafts of guitar that betrays his beginnings as bandleader of Painting By Numbers a few years back. Unfortunately, it would appear people have better things to do at a gig than pay attention to the music, and his music is greeted with applause stolen mid-conversation, the slowly-bulking assembly sat in the upper-level seats and bar.
It’s a situation that happily changes when the sisters McNamara come along, with full band in tow for the first time in Cork. Heathers‘ faultless harmonies rouse the crowd immediately, and opening gambit Runaway is greeted with a burst of applause. The addition of drums, cello and electric guitar to the live show is a brave move, but it makes all the difference, providing substance and adding new layers to the performance. In a town very much given to folk and acoustic, they hold people’s attention, but the joy of it is seeing the sisters’ twin chemistry, laughing and chatting between themselves between songs, and relating childhood stories to the crowd, such as before Fire Ant. Some brave attempts at crowd banter (“Does anyone here feel like they’re in a submarine?”) are greeted with the jollies but if anything, it shows that for all their recent success and the presence they wield on stage, thankfully there isn’t a hint of ego between them. A fantastic set from an outfit rightly acknowledged as one of the best things in Ireland today.
O Emperor are riding a wave at the moment also, debut album released through Universal last year. It’s evident immediately who brought the crowd tonight, as wild cheers greet their arrival and punctuate every song’s conclusion. On stage tonight, though, something seems to be missing, with attempts at banter and addressing the crowd coming off as gruff and impersonal. Their stuff doesn’t deviate too far from the well-worn contemporary indie template, and while there are flourishes of originality here and there, and their technical prowess is far from in question, they sound like a band a tad too in thrall to their influences. Whether or not this was a result of their beginnings covering indie and blues standards is up for debate, but it all just comes off as going through the motions at best and at worst verging on vanilla alternative.
One band that can never be accused of being such, however are Adebisi Shank, who take the stage as one section of the crowd disperses and another comes out of the woodwork, putting to ease fears that a pogo pit would be absent tonight. Opening the set with a triumphant International Dreambeat, it is immediately apparent, as it always is, just why the band are so beloved, the joyful anime-parade sounds meeting with moshing and even singalongs with its now-iconic stuttering synth. The band as ever, are a whirl of activity on stage, Vin and Lar tossing themselves into their performance with abandon, with a setlist that thankfully melds the old and new, Masa and Micromachines greeted rapturously and Shunk and a killer one-two of rarities Ohayou and Oyasumi sending the front section into spasms of movement, jerking, twisting, hopping, and generally rocking out as only Adebisi can almost magically compel people to do. It seems to motivate the lads even further, as set-closer Europa is greeted with bays for more before the last note is struck. We receive, thankfully, and Mini-Rockers is an excuse for Vin to proceed into the crowd for his beloved crowd-surf, and though the audience has dwindled (Lar waves goodbye to some decidedly unapproving heads that pass him by on the way to the exit), he’s nonetheless greeted by many enthusiastic hands and carried around the front like a king. A fitting end to a set by a band that reminds us all, every time they put on instruments, why they’re the absolute best this country has to offer right now.