posted on November 15, 2008 08:11
Okkervil River (live in The Academy, Dublin)
Review Snapshot: Their second visit to these shores in under twelve months sees Okkervil River battle with The Academy’s all too obvious limitations yet still produce a set which cements their reputation for a compelling live show.
The Cluas Verdict? 9 out of 10
Okkervil River are the band you haven‘t allowed yourself to love. Yet. Their continued existence – indeed, their present flourishing - is grounded upon their fan base’s affection for the band’s fascination with life in a band (particularly on their two most recent albums), nascent fame and all of its associated tawdriness. This co-existence is neatly played out tonight when the opening chords of ‘Pop Lie’ begin - the crowd shamelessly echoing Will Sheff as he sings: “He’s the liar who lied in his pop song, and you’re lying when you sing along.” The irony is, perhaps, lost on everyone but the band.
Tonight’s gig begins with an apology - Sheff misplacing his capo for ‘Plus Ones’ - but ends with validation, as the band tear through perennial favourite ‘Westfall’. This is the second time Austin’s finest (think Roky Erickson as opposed to The Butthole Surfers) have visited these shores in the past twelve months, and so it is that Okkervil River now find themselves at the vanguard of American bands destined to jump from obscurity to, perhaps, soundtracking episodes of 90210. Let’s hope not.
There are blips tonight - a surprisingly lacklustre ‘Starry Stairs’ - and, if we’re being petty, a drawn out version of ‘A Stone’ which merely serves to confirm that there are folk who will pay in to see a band and talk very loudly at the bar.
The venue itself doesn’t help - horrible sight lines, poor sound, a non-existent stage and rumblings of a dictatorially enforced curfew mean the band have to battle against forces beyond their control. Ultimately, this matters little given the energy with which the band launch themselves into the likes of ‘A Hand to Take Hold of the Scene‘ and ‘Unless Its Kicks‘.
The show itself pivots on a perfect rendition of ‘Blue Tulip’ - a gentle acoustic and piano-led intro ultimately gives way to Sheff screaming: “With every single cell of me, I’m going to make you mean the words you sigh”. Truly, it’s a point of no return. For all the politeness of the early tracks, the song is a trip switch for band and crowd alike. ‘Lost Coastlines’ begins with what sounds like a bastardised attempt at Irish trad but swiftly morphs into ‘The Stand Ins’ catchiest tune.
A quite mesmerising series of songs brings the gig to a close at least one encore too early. Indeed, it’s the songs they choose not to play tonight which is as much of a show of strength as those they do. A slow burning triumph then.