Posts Tagged ‘ Olympia ’

Carrie Underwood Electrifies the Olympia Theatre

1010-carrie-underwoodSix-time Grammy award winner Carrie Underwood brought her Blown Away tour to Dublin’s Olympia Theatre on Thursday 14th March. The concert marked the singer’s first time on these shores and it most certainly was a night to remember.

A now well-known figure in the country music industry, Underwood started her career as the winner of American Idol in 2005, beating out thousands of singers for the coveted prize and since then her career has soared to dizzying heights. Her four studio albums have all been immensely successful, reaching the number one spot on several charts. Selling more than 15 million album copies worldwide, Underwood is the epitome of a small-town girl making good. Furthermore, she had a guest role on the prominent sitcom How I Met Your Mother and also starred in the film Soul Surfer but it is on the stage where the girl from Oklahoma comes to life. Continue reading

Villagers Wave Goodbye To Intimate Gigs at Whelans

Conor O’Brien and the Villagers take to a familiar stage in front of a packed house in Whelans:  “We’ve played here two million times.  This is our two millionth-and-first gig, but this place is always special – it’s home.”  Villagers have just completed a long tour opening for Grizzly Bear around Europe.  They are finally home and ready to focus on promoting their second album Awayland which is due for release in January.

Their loyal fan-base is out in force to welcome them back.  It has been a long wait for the follow up to their phenomenally successful debut album, Becoming a Jackal, a Mercury prize nominee in 2010.  Those who have attended gigs in the interim have been treated to snippets of new material and over the last year the number of new songs featured in shows has grown and with it anticipation.

O’Brien opens within his comfort-zone with ‘Set the Tigers Free’, ‘Home’ and ‘The Pact’ all tracks from the bands first offering.   The Villagers toured the album for two years almost non-stop.  O’Brien’s mastery of these songs allows him to toy with them; he experiments by taking them in new directions.  For some, like ‘That Day’, he pares them back completely delivering them alone with just his guitar, but with others he invites the contribution of his band.  The latter is the new direction that the Villagers are taking on their forthcoming album.

Becoming a Jackal was O’Brien’s in all but name.  For the album he played all the instruments, wrote the lyrics and the music himself.  The band joined him on stage to perform the songs because there are only so many instruments one person can play.  However, things are different now.  O’Brien is one of the most complete musical talents on the Irish music scene but with the few years maturity he is not afraid to enlist the help of his band in the making of the new record.  In doing so he is embracing the contributions of his talented band members as he seeks a fuller sound.  He still has control of the lyrics but the musical monopoly that he commanded over the first album seems to have been relinquished.  In a short note on the bands website he describes the direction taken for Awayland, “I sure as hell don’t want to lose any intimacy in the music, but I need to take this intimacy into a more vibrant place.  The furrowed-brow vocal seriousness which I used to engage with has no place here.”  O’Brien is venturing into unknown territory.  He knows that releasing Jackal mark II would placate his fans but in terms of his development it would be pointless so he is embracing the band cooperative in order to take his music forward.

O’Brien, in his characteristically reserved way, gives the audience warning of what is on the menu, “Tonight we’re going to do lots of new material.  I hope that’s ok.”  The tightly packed crowd whoops its approval and he replies, “Good, because that would have been awkward if it wasn’t.”  The new album’s songs still bear the hallmarks of the first with his penchant for a sharp lyric and his enchanting vocals remaining centre stage but they are no longer alone as the furnishings have been worked on with extensive in-put from band members: Cormac Curran, Danny Snow, James Byrne and Tommy McLaughlin.  They join him for backing vocals on ‘The Bell’ giving it a more layered sound.  They turn punk for ‘Earthly Pleasure’.  They strum guitars together for ‘Nothing Arrived’ with Conor howling the vocals, banging drums while strobe lights flash.  The tough touring schedule has clearly taken a toll on O’Brien’s voice as he coughs between songs and drinks plenty of water but his enunciation is still immaculate when needed on the more intimate and familiar sounding ‘My Lighthouse’.  The crowd slips easily under his spell.  O’Brien gives us the title track from his first album and there is a warning held in one of its lyrics, “So before you take this song as truth/ You should wonder what I’m taking from you/ How I benefit from you being here/ Lending me your ears while I’m selling you my fears.”  Clearly this involves give and take as O’Brien tests the new material on his audience.

The new single ‘The Waves’ mixes light electro-funk beats with O’Brien’s bouncing lyrics and epitomises their exciting new direction.  The audience is warming to the new track as it builds towards a loud crescendo with the bands new, more united, sound washing over the audience.  Based on tonight’s performance the album will be worth the wait.

As O’Brien salutes the adoring crowd and mentions a special thanks to family and friends of the band who are up in the pew above saying, “We’re glad to have you here.  It’s been a while but we’ll be with you soon” before launching into the last song of the night, a familiar one, ‘On a Sunlit Stage’.  The intimate setting of Whelans may not be able to house this band for much longer.  January, and their second album, will see another surge in their popularity.  Their next Dublin date is March in the Olympia and by that stage fans will be equipped with a copy of Awayland and smaller gigs will be talked about with reverence.  They are no longer a solo act.


Set the Tigers Free


The Pact (I’ll be your fever)

Grateful Song

Passing a Message

The Bell

Becoming a Jackal

My Lighthouse

Rhythm Composer

The Meaning of the Ritual


Earthly Pleasure

Judgement Call

Nothing Arrived

The Waves

Ship of Promises

That Day

In a Newfoundland You Are Free

On a Sunlight Stage

Contenders Set To Battle It Out For The Choice Music Prize

Tonight, the Olympia, one of Ireland’s oldest and renowned theatres will play host to some of Ireland’s newest and rawest talent from the thriving Irish music industry. Independent Irish music is riding on the crest of a wave at the moment with live music echoing throughout the villages,towns and cities of Ireland. If you visit any bustling town or city in Ireland at the moment you will see a vibrant live music scene not only above ground but also underground. There is dubstep, indie, pop, dance, metal, electronica, hip hop, trip hop, grime and even some good old rock n’ roll to be found no matter where you go. You name it, the chances are it will be in a club pub or venue near you or coming soon. Whatever it is about desperate times, it seems to produce far from desperate music. The Irish music scene is in an extremely healthy state.

Belfast is churning out successful acts like Led Zeppelin did records in the 70’s crossing all genres and Dublin is a whole other column. There is a burgeoning music scene in the capital and it had been bubbling under the surface for many years. International acts now see Dublin as an important stepping stone to building a reputable fan base. Ticket prices are still a little too expensive but that’s another days work. Unfortunately the reason Dublin is a whole other columns work is because if you want to establish yourself in Ireland, that is where you need to be 9 times out of 10. You may be able to build up a minimal fan base touring the country but the crowds you yearn for and dream of as a performer, musician, singer are in Dublin. Trends are made and broken in the city by the Liffey. That is why most of the acts that will take to the stage in the Olympia tonight are based in Dublin. Tonight will see the 7th annual Choice Music prize take place at its new home. It has moved from Vicar St. down the road.

The Choice Music prize was set up by Irish Times music impresario Jim Carroll along with Dave Reid in 2005. Initially set up as an alternative to the Meteor Music awards it is now ironically sponsored by the very same Meteor. Put it this way, it is Ireland’s Mercury Prize or the closest you will get to that. Celebrating and championing the cause of Irish music and using it as a platform to showcase the finest Irish albums of each year for the last seven years, it has enjoyed relative success as the alternative music lover’s chance to celebrate the best albums of the year and can be considered the antidote to the mainstream drivel we hear on most radio stations every day.

This years judging panel will see the co-founder Jim Carroll handing over the reins to his colleagues and will watch with intrepid anxiety tonight as an album will be plucked from obscurity and hopefully propelled into the stratosphere. The judging panel for the 2011 awards is a veritable mix of DJ’s, journalists, producers and all manner of media professionals. There is 11 on the judging panel. Over the last number of years there have been a few surprises with perhaps the most surprising being Super Extra Bonus Party in 2007. There have been a notable number of acts whose profile was immeasurably enhanced by the prize which I forgot to mention is €10,000. Past winners include Julie Feeney, The Divine Comedy, Jape, Adrian Crowley and Two Door Cinema Club. The nominees this year include:

And So I Watch You From Afar (ASIWYFA)- Arguably one of the hardest working bands in Irish music right now, the Belfast band have experienced many line-up changes over the years but maintained their gritty alt-rock sound without fail and this is their first Choice nomination but second album called Gangs.

Bell X1- Almost the paternal group among the rest of the relative newcomers Bell X1 are stewards of the Irish music scene and are the most successful out of all the nominees, This isn’t their first nomination but they will be hoping their Bloodless Coup album will be  the winning nomination. This is their fifth studio album.

Cashier No. 9- More natives of Belfast, these guys are considered among the favourites to go home with the accolade for their supremely laid back effort To The Death of Fun. Swirling, chilled out, pop tunes intertwined with a rustic feel and groove these guys have certainly given themselves a chance to cash in!

Lisa Hannigan- No longer referred to as Damien Rice’s sidekick, Hannigan has carved out a career of her own cementing herself as a singer songwriter of stature and note with profound ability to wrap charm around a note of sweet effervescent ear tingling lyrics. Her sweet, soulful voice could land her the prize for Passenger, a strong follow-up to 2009’s Sea Sew, a Choice contender itself in 2009. One of the favourites.

The Japanese Popstars: Their debut effort Control Your Allegiance could fit seamlessly into their back catalogue in years to come as  an album that belied its years and with samples and contributions from Robert Smith, Lisa Hannigan and James Vincent McMorrow it feels and sounds like an album that was produced from a much more experienced outfit. Oh and it’s electronic/dance beats. An unusual nominee for the Choice prize given previous ones, however with the re-emergence of dance, not surprising. Another group from up North serving to underline the vibrant and healthy scene surrounding Belfast and neighbouring counties.

Jape: A previous winner it is unlikely his Ocean of Frequency will win but don’t be shocked if it does. Electro infused eclectic music is the staple sound of Richie Egan and don’t be surprised if the extremely talented musician is back in the future with another offering for the Choice Music Prize.

Patrick Kelleher and His Cold Dead Hands: An artist I am not overly familiar with and a genre I am not overly enthused about, synth driven 80’s weird drum machine hair-raising bleh, all signs and talk point to the outsiders tag for this album. Considered one of the more ‘alternative acts’ in a list of alternative acts could work for or against Kelleher but with an open-minded panel any one of these acts is in with a chance.

Pugwash: When I first listened to Pugwash, Supergrass popped into my head but I don’t know why because they are not very similar to Supergrass at all. They do however have their own brand of timeless pop that would make you whistle, hum and smile when you hear it because it is quite quirky. These guys have been around a while and not necessarily working together during that time-span but they are veterans compared to most of the field and perhaps for this alone they may deserve an award just for seemingly being fun. Everybody likes fun people right?

Tieranniesaur: A wife and husband duo who recorded this album at home I would consider these guys to be very strong outsiders but that may be because I love this album. She is the sister of Mick Pyro of Republic of Loose fame so is no stranger to the music business. They seamlessly fuse indie and funk together and seperate it again from track to track and for sheer creativeness, ingenuity and the enjoyment factor I am going to make this my tip for the Choice Music Prize.

We Cut Corners: Take two teachers. Put them in a blender. Pulse for 10 years or so and you get We Cut Corners. Probably my second favourite album of the year, these two teachers (still teaching) took a long time to realise they were musicians and musicians capable of coming up with an award-winning album. Albeit it is a very short album but there is no need to make it any longer with such panache and honed sounds attached to it with confident and loud lyrics to fuse the whole project together, Today I Realised I Could Go Home backwards is probably right alongside Cashier No. 9 as the favourite.

Just as a little bit on the side, I am going to be bold and daring and predict that at least some of the following bands will be on the Choice Music Prize list in the next year or two. Little Green Cars whose music I cannot get enough of recently, check out their Bandcamp page, Funeral Suits, Le Galaxie, The Minutes, James Vincent McMorrow (baffling that he isn’t already a winner), MMOTHS, The Cast of Cheers, Squarehead and Girl Band. Keep your eyes peeled and ears open. Good luck to all the acts competing for the prize, you are all winners in your parents and fans eyes.