A SLAY TO REMEMBER
Anne Enright’s Actress tells the story of a glamorous Irish actress named Katherine Odell from the perspective of her daughter, Norah. After years of journalistic speculation and rumour, Norah is pushed to finally publish a novel that details her mother’s secrets and what finally drove her to madness.
Underneath all the glamour and chaos of Katherine’s life, the story centres on a complex mother-daughter relationship. Tales of years past in a romanticised, postwar America or shabby 1970s are all threaded together by Norah’s personal narrative. Sometimes, she writes about memories of her mother with awe and wonder, others with pity and disappointment. Actress sometimes leans too heavily on nostalgia. It shines brightest in Norah’s moments of reflection, as she discusses the men in her life, and reflects on getting older and surpassing her mother in age. It is these powerful, personal moments that make this a worthwhile read.
THE MURDER CAPITAL Vicar Street, Dublin
The Murder Capital are played onto the Vicar Street stage by the hum of an electric guitar and the words of Paul Curran. The late poet sings, “Dear James, I still remember the days...how quick you faded away”, as the band pick up their instruments and singer James McGovern inhales sharply.
In their short time as The Murder Capital, the group have amassed a hefty following. Vicar Street is packed with one of the motliest crews I’ve ever seen. Everyone and their dad has turned up for the band’s hometown show. The boys launch into an intense set, refusing to be pigeonholed by genre – categorising them as “punk” would be too simple, although it has become the buzzword used to describe their sound. There’s certainly fury in songs like ‘Don’t Cling To Life,’ but the band’s hallmark is actually tenderness.
Spurred on by the crowd’s enthusiasm, they rage against the establishment and toxic masculinity, holding each other close and encouraging the room to join their openness. McGovern remembers lost loved ones, saying “please reach out, if you need to talk to someone, we’re here,” before ‘On Twisted Ground’ begins. For the next six minutes, the room is drowned by the band’s all-out sonic assault. At a show like this, exerting control over the audience takes immense effort – but the whole band are in top form, keeping the song simmering just below boiling point.
Suddenly, The Murder Capital release their pent-up energy, and we’re caught in the eye of the hurricane. As support act Junior Brother crowdsurfs, McGovern lurches towards the crowd, touching hands and faces. All the while, he yells the “la-la-las” of ‘Feeling Fades’. Then, as quickly as they came, The Murder Capital are gone again, leaving bright eyes and bleeding hearts in their wake. TANIS SMITHER
FONTAINES D.C. Brixton Academy, London
The freezing breeze sweeping the streets of London is a chilly reminder that winter is not yet over. Already, though, Fontaines DC’s slaying of a sold-out Brixton Academy is a contender for gig of the year. Like Oasis, Arctic Monkeys and The Strokes before them, the Fontaines have arrived fully formed with a sound unlike anything else. They seemed to have captured exactly what people were waiting for – indeed, they are Ireland’s most exciting act in 2020.
Channelling The Pogues, Joy Division, The Cure, The Smiths and The Fall, whilst creating something completely original, they are red hot and match fit from a relentless schedule of gigging. Soundtracked by The Dubliners’ ‘School Days Over’, Grian Chatten and the boys arrive onstage with a strut reminiscent of the
“ONLY A FEW SONGS IN, THERE ARE ALREADY GROWN MEN HOWLING AND BARECHESTED BOYS CLIMBING UP ON SHOULDERS.”
gang mentality and swagger of The Libertines. Opening with a ferocious take on new tune ‘A Hero’s Death’, it’s clear they’ve come to play at breakneck pace.
Chatten stares into the crowd and slams his mic stand to the floor, demanding the crowd’s full attention. Only a few songs in, there are already grown men howling and barechested boys climbing up on shoulders. Guitarist Conor Curley, so at ease he could be filing his nails, creates a twin guitar apocalypse along with Carlos O’Connell. They’re beautifully complemented by the thumping bass of Conor Deegan, with the overall effect similar to the Stones’ sonic voodoo. They play ‘Chequeless Reckless’ Dylan-style – as in, like never before, with Grian coming on like a ranting preacher marauding around the stage.
‘Sha Sha Sha’ greets us like an old friend, with
Tom Coll’s booming drums pushing the crowd towards outright delirium. Carlos clambers on top of 15 feet of stacked amps to get a better view of proceedings, his lead guitar wriggling after him like an anaconda. Grian beats a tambourine, yelling at us, “Tire and tire and tire”. He then repeatedly shouts “That’s another one!”, in a track where the Weller-like lyrics grittily document urban life.
They hit us with another new track, ‘Televised Mind’, a portent of ominous times ahead, echoing The Cure’s dark classic Pornography. Grian then introduces Dogrel favourite ‘Television Screens’ with an unexpected verse of Ella Fitzgerald’s ‘Summertime’. For ‘The Lotts’, he plunges his hands into his pockets, singing the wistful tune, as beers go flying over the crowd. There’s an ambivalence in Chatten’s performance during ‘La, La, La’ – we may as well not even be in front of him, as he loses himself in the Joy Division-style bassline. He points to the heavens and everyone chants back the chorus.
They don’t take a breath: on new track ‘Lucid Dream’, the frontman has a manic intensity similar to John Lydon. We all completely lose it during ‘Too Real’ – the audience are a frenzy, moshing and crowd-surfing. Looking up at the balcony, they are almost careening over, being dragged into the Fontaines’ inferno. There’s a mass singalong during ‘Roy’s Tune’, which puts you in mind of Morrissey during his Whalley Range bedroom prime. The audience cry out the lines of disenchantment, “Are you hanging on? / Hey love, are you hanging on?”
Incredibly, given that they’ve only released one record, great tunes continue to stack up one after another. ‘Boys In The Better Land’ is an absolute belter, while the marvellous ‘Hurricane Laughter’ drives the mob wilder and wilder. ‘Dublin City
Sky’ amplifies the magnitude of what is occurring here – an Irish band conquering London. This time it’s Curley’s turn to climb the amps: he dangles his legs and strums his guitar, king of all he surveys. Dublin is being brought to London tonight, but these tunes could be about London – in fact, they could be about any town.
They then suckerpunch us with ‘Liberty
Belle’, followed by this generation’s ‘I Am The
Resurrection’, the anthemic ‘Big’. The crowd duly go ape, screaming out every word. And then it’s over, the Fontaines strut off, and we slouch out into the Brixton night, changed utterly. WILL RUSSELL
THE STROKES Waterfront Hall, Belfast
It’s grim up north these days (to borrow a phrase from our English neighbours). When we’re not being battered by a battalion of storms, the people of Belfast and beyond are feeling increasingly hobbled by the all-too-real blight known as Brexit.
Thankfully, hipster heroes The Strokes are in town to help remind us all that there might just be light at the end of the tunnel. Your humble Hot Press scribe is front row for a much-needed sonic tonic.
It’s been well over a decade since Julian Casablancas and co. last graced NI’s biggest city (2006 for those keeping score), so it was no great shock to learn that tickets for this hastily arranged “surprise show” were scarce. Looking a little older, but thankfully not behaving any wiser, this evening the New Yorkers are a hail of whiskey-soaked croons, bristling guitars and economic bass-lines.
Is it a nostalgia-fest? Definitely. But it’s a lot of fun too, as The Strokes dip into their evergreen back catalogue. As expected, it’s those indefatigable gems from their near perfect 2001 debut Is This It which still dazzle most. ‘Someday’ is a buoyant shuffle that’s laced with a welcome dose of melancholy; ‘Hard to Explain’ is untarnished by time; and ‘Take It Or Leave It’ still packs a punch Tyson Fury would be proud of.
Ever the anti-showman, singer Julian Casablancas’ performance is as defiantly prickly as ever. When he’s not lying on the drum riser warbling, he’s trying to skewer a mirrorball with a mic stand and telling the crowd his “singing gloves” are called Randy and Jack. Bassist Nikolai Fraiture, meanwhile, earns some brownie points by paying tribute to George Best and The Undertones.
‘You Only Live Once’ from the band’s patchy third full-length First Impressions Of Earth has aged remarkably well and grooves with the best of them. So too has ‘Heart In A Cage’ which has a wonderful, Iron Maiden-style guitar riff Adrian Smith himself might have invented.
Elsewhere, newie ‘Bad Decisions,’ which shamelessly purloins from the songbook of Generation X, suggests comeback album The New Abnormal could yet make those writing-off The Strokes eat their words.
Although the too-cool-for-school aesthetic feels a little contrived at this stage (the likes of Jerry A or John Reis could teach them a thing or two about stagecraft and charisma), and they only play for around 60 minutes, there’s no denying the sheer joy of indie anthems ‘Juicebox’ and ‘Reptilia’.
And joy is definitely something we all need a little more of right now. EDWIN MCFEE
GAVIN JAMES 3Arena, Dublin
Cometh the hour, cometh the man. Backed by a four-piece band, Gavin James’ first track of the night is a brilliantly energetic, propulsive rendition of ‘Tired’. The sold out 3Arena crowd gets in on the act early, with phone torches held high. Meanwhile, lasers and some brief pyrotechnics signify the spectacle to follow.
Mr. Wigglesworth (Gavin James’ amazing birthname) is one of those artists who sounds even better live. That’s no criticism of his records: rather, there is something unique and powerful about seeing him in action onstage. During the more stripped-back, naked and vulnerable tracks like anti-bullying ballad ‘22’ or delicate love song ‘Nervous’, there’s an intimacy achieved that’s rare in a big arena. The venue is pin-drop quiet, as the audience leans in to listen intently, everyone feeling personally serenaded by the Dubliner.
There’s another mode to James too: one of cathartic eruptions of sound and big, swelling choruses. In these moments, as crowd participation builds impressively, it is impossible to resist the urge to sing along.
Being played in his home city of Dublin, ‘Coming Home’ feels that extra bit buoyant, aided by slightly rawer guitars and more immediate vocals. Similarly, the rollicking, almost country-sounding ‘Say Hello’ – his first single and a track he hasn’t played in years – is given extra resonance thanks to James’ introduction. “This is the song that brought me from Temple Bar to Whelan’s,” he recounts with genuine pathos. It’s been a long way from there to here.
The 3Arena audience is also treated to three new songs. ‘Fake Love’ is classic James, an anthemic number which could slot nicely onto Only Ticket Home. ‘All Around The World’ is a sweet Elton John-inspired piano ballad.
But the standout is ‘Boxes’. Here a funky guitar line anchors an upbeat, empowering song criticising the type of authority figures who try to kill people’s dreams. “Don’t wake me up,” he sings, “If you’re only going to tell me to give it up… You’re lying through your teeth / We don’t fit into your boxes / We’re all different underneath.”
The night culminates in an encore featuring a marvellous solo rendition of ‘The Book Of Love’, which highlights James’ incredible vocal range; a powerful performance of the big ballad ‘Always’; and a perfect closer in the explosive crescendo of ‘Only Ticket Home’.
Throughout the gig, James has teased the climax with some well-timed drops of confetti and the odd plume of fire emanating upwards from the stage. During the final track, these erupt together to the power of 10, making for an epic finale. Meanwhile, James himself runs from the stage into the seating area of the crowd to play a few bars of the song – talk about intimacy!
This was the final date of his Only Ticket
Home tour: James won’t be playing Dublin again for a few months. In the meantime, fans can take comfort in the memories of this 3Arena show – and the knowledge that more great tunes are coming down the track.
A triumph. STEPHEN PORZIO • See hotpress.com for more reviews
“THERE IS SOMETHING UNIQUE AND POWERFUL ABOUT SEEING HIM IN ACTION ONSTAGE.”