As The Music Show audience crawls out of its resting place and stretches its legs, a triumphant hat-trick of hushed harmonies, delicate keys and some truly spellbinding whistling are seducing droves of early risers to the live stage. This marvellous din is made by Waterford collective O Emperor, whose debut album Hither Thither gets a thrilling live airing. Phil Christie’s earthy drawl carouses happily with Paul Savage’s skyscraping croon. ‘Seladia’ recalls Wings’ loveliest moments, while blissful single ‘Don Quixote’ is as carnal as post-rock comes.
An accordion, a banjo and a bodhrán are hardly the desired instruments to force open our bleary eyes this morning but as The High Kings launch into ‘The Rocky Road To Dublin’, it’s clear that their Celtic swagger (you heard me…) is just the thing to wipe away any trace of hangover. As usual, The Kings sound best thundering through folk anthems like ‘Step It Out, Mary’, which unleash the real power of the acoustic performance.
Nothing quite puts the wind up your Sunday afternoon like witnessing Fight Like Apes pummeling seven shades of doo-dah out of Salt ‘N’ Pepa’s ‘Push It’. The most rambunctious crowd of the weekend are rewarded with a short sharp shock of a set. This mob’s stage antics have been well documented (and yes, May-Kay and Jamie oblige us with the obligatory stage dive), but it’s the sound that impresses most: dirty key-tar action, dinky synths and a perfectly ‘verbed vocal tone. Highlights include a rowdy ‘Captain A-Bomb’, an impromptu Q&A interlude between nosy audience and unsuspecting bass-player (“What kind of shampoo do you use?” “Herbal Essences”), and a climactic ‘Battlestations’.
Following this magical mayhem are The Coronas, who’ve decided to risk melting a few hearts by debuting some shiney new material, alongside Tony Was An Ex-Con favourites ‘Far From Here’ and ‘Someone Else’s Hands’. Danny O’Reilly introduces the spiky newbie with a proposition – if the fans like it, it goes on the third album. By the end of the tune, an ecstatic gang of revellers are hollering along with the catchy “If I had a rainbow…” refrain, so it looks like we’ll be seeing that one on record number three.
Next, Sharon Corr treats the crowd to a soulful rendition of album title-track ‘Dream Of You‘ and a rather lovely cover of Bronski Beat’s ‘Smalltown Boy’, delivered in a slow folksy sway. ‘Radio’ is as powerful as The Corrs’ original recorded version, except for a half-time dropped-beat pre-chorus (“You are in my head…”). The crowd lap up a triumphant performance.
Sharon hands the reins over to Jerry Fish And The Mudbug Club, who prove themselves to be consummate professionals in the time-honoured occupation of making mischief. Bellowing “Take me!”– a lyric from the swoonsome ‘Back To Before’ – a typically dapper Fish reaches out into audience, searching for a man, woman or amphibian to serenade. He quickly finds a willing participant and bundles her into his arms for the rest of the song. Jerry Fish is a true star.
Cathy Davey continues the love with an intoxicating collection of tunes from wonderful third album The Nameless. Quirky guitar and dainty rhythms are the order of the day but the glorious shrieks of ‘Little Red’ make it the star track of the set.
Damien Dempsey has a dozen stellar acts to follow as he sets out to wrap up the weekend’s proceedings so he puts his gypsy anthems straight to work, determined to keep the crowd on their toes. It takes about 15 seconds for the quintessential Dublin Jack The Lad to have them eating out of the palm of his hand, even introducing rock ballad ‘Your Pretty Smile’ with a threat of “Smile or I’ll burst yiz!”
It seems quite fitting that the final words of The Music Show 2010 come not from the artist, but from the fans themselves. “Grasp the wealth of yourself” they croon in unison, as master Dempsey leads them through ‘Seize The Day‘,”Love yourself today…” and it’s a perfect moment. Who knew a room of this size could hold so much love? Over an entire weekend?
A full review of the exhibition stands at The Music Show will appear in the next issue of Hot Press.