Gig Reviews, Dublin, Crawdaddy

09

Esben & the Witch (Live at the Crawdaddy)

Review Snapshot: The critically acclaimed Esben and the Witch make their Dublin debut in The Crawdaddy, and give a performance appropriate for the fairy tale from which they’re named. A memorable night for those in attendance.

The CLUAS Verdict: 7.5 out of 10 

Full review: A small crowd of about forty gather for the night's support act, The Ambience Affair. The unsigned Leinster band have to date released two EPs, but with a full length LP in the works expectations are high. Pounding drums and jangling guitar sail the band from track to track, from upbeat to soothing and from start to finish. The band, masters of creating a wall of sound, seamlessly mount guitar and vocals on replayed loops, building a sound far more tangible and expansive than could be expected from a three member group. Once the applause after each song has died down there is a dead silence with frenzied guitar changes and set ups for the next song. They attempt to distract the crowd by using this downtime to crack a few jokes and plug their debut album's upcoming release. Only the small audience stood in the way of a rapturous farewell at the close of their set.

Headliners Esben & the Witch - aptly named after a strange and dark fairy tale - are met with a slightly fuller room of about one hundred or so when they hit the stage, devotees and sceptics alike gathered for the Brighton-based band's first Irish gig. They waste no time in getting started and launch into their first track “Argyria”,  opening track of their debut album ‘Violet Cries’. Sticking to the album's track listing for much of the set list, their next number is ‘Marching Song’ the hauntingly beautiful 2nd track on the album. It loses none of its intensity or allure in the live environment, the crowd hardly move throughout. Only when a gracious few words of appreciation are uttered is it clear that the track has ended the crowd applauses.

The performance is carefully coordinated: members rotate their position constantly and efficiently - this is a well toured and rehearsed band. Just as well, as the band members regularly swap their instruments (Rachel Davis on lead vocals sometimes doubles as a bassist, and Tom Fisher and Daniel Copeman swap backing vocal,  bass, rhythm guitar and synths duties). There is also a solitary drum in the centre of the stage, and each member takes their turn at playing it. At one point the band show remarkable - if not manic - harmony and coordination when two members share drumming duties. And not one beat or clash of the cymbal is out of sync.

Track ‘Chorea’, as close to an upbeat dance number as they get, finally sees some movement from the crowd, heads nod approvingly. 

The reception has been mixed, some ecstatic, others still not quite sure what they have just seen. With their debut album released only 2 months before the gig, this is a band who have the potential to grow in years to come. Based on tonight's performance, their future could be something quite spectacular.

Katie Murphy

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