The CLUAS Archive: 1998 - 2011

Gig Reviews

16

Concerto For Constantine (live in Whelan's, Dublin)

Review Snapshot: Concerto For Constantine rocked out a packed Whelan's. Their live show was brilliant, both musically and visually.

The Cluas Verdict? 8.5 out of 10


Full Review:
Concerto For Constantine consists of JJ72’s Mark Greaney, Idlewild’s Gavin Fox and Binzer of The Frames and Bell X1 fame. JJ72 remain one of my favourite Irish bands of all time and regard ‘I To Sky’ as one of the finest Irish records this decade. Their protracted demise frustrated and disappointed me, but I was full of excitement when I heard about Greaney’s latest project. They have been gigging since November but tonight, Binzer’s birthday, was my first experience of them.

The stage is set. Dressed in a uniform of black overcoats, jeans and boots, Gavin Fox and Mark Greaney take to the stage illuminated by flashing strobe lights. They burst straight into an electrifying set. They play straight-up self-indulgent rock, and it’s brilliant. At times it's almost a return to 90s grunge. On stage, Mark and Gavin have such a connection that one cannot help but think that these two men were born to play together. One song in and I’m thinking, “thank Christ JJ72 broke up”.

Concerto For Constantine played for just over and hour, not once lapsing into songs from their previous acts. Their visceral performance was filled with passion as Mark screamed down the microphone to a backdrop of throbbing basslines and thumping drums. The influence of The Smashing Pumpkins has always been evident throughout Mark Greaney’s career, but no more so than with Concerto For Constantine..

They ended on an instrumental number with Gavin Fox picking up an acoustic guitar. As they played, thousands of scraps of black crepe paper rained down from the ceiling. It was a bizarre and stunning visual experience. Then, they burst into one final rip roaring track. Based on tonight, this band may be one of Dublin’s brightest talents.

 Garret Cleland

 


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10

Lupe Fiasco

Lupe Fiasco (live in Tripod, Dublin)

Review Snapshot: On the tails of his hotly received second album 'The Cool', Chicago's Lupe Fiasco hits Dublin to energetically deliver a repertoire of songs that have seen Jay Z describe him as a "breath of fresh air".

The Cluas Verdict? 6.5 out of 10

Full Review:
“I'll tell you what you should do, Dumb it down” - that's a line belted out by Lupe Fiasco from his song 'Dumb it Down' during his visit to Dublin's Tripod on Saturday night. And he's a man of his word, with a no-fuss stage set up of him, a microphone and a DJ providing backing tracks. Given the extravagant stage shows endorsed by his contemporaries Kanye West and Pharrell Williams – with whom Fiasco founded supergroup Rebel Child Soldier – the stripped down stage presence was disappointing at first sight. Having previously witnessed Kanye West's mixture of groundbreaking content with an extravagant stage show, I had hoped Lupe would attempt something to make his music come across in a more 'live' way, rather than have a DJ rehash his backing tracks. But it worked. Fiasco's interaction with the DJ and acapello rapping gave the crowd the atmosphere of a club gig, whilst giving an insight into the raw environment in which all rappers must learn their trade.

Lupe has come a long way from his first visit to Ireland as part of Kanye West's world tour in 2005 – his hit single 'Superstar' has catapulted him to the top of the charts of late and it naturally got the best reception from the Dublin crowd. On a night of little speaking to the Dublin crowd, Fiasco did tell the crowd of his delight at hearing the song on the radio so often and (worringly) at it being used as a ringtone. But 'Superstar' isn't his first brush with regular airplay – his appearance on Kanye West's 'Touch the Sky' brought him to the attention of millions and he performed his rap from that hit in an intro medley that included an improv rap to the tune of Jay Z's 'Show Me What Ya Got'. The set ended with his mixtape fave ‘Happy Industries’ (a mash-up with Gorillaz' 'Feel Good Inc.'), but it was Lupe's original material that was the lasting point from this concert.
 
As well as 'Superstar', Fiasco's well-known tracks 'Daydream' and 'Kick, Push' (who else could pull off rapping about skateboarding on their first single???) were the best received by the large-but-not-mobbed Tripod audience. But it is the lesser known album tracks in which he really let loose and displayed his awesome rap delivery. Flavouring the set with intense acappello raps, Fiasco's voice flows with such speed that it is impossible to decipher what he is saying but he does it with such rhythm and coolness that it is enjoyable nonetheless!
 
As someone not well versed with Fiasco's two album discography, it was hard to get into the tracks I was hearing for the first time – apart from 'Dumb it Down' and ‘The Instrumental’. Lupe's hour-and-a-bit long performance left me with the sense that if I’d been more familiar with Lupe's albums beforehand, I'd have been as impressed with the content of the show as I was with Fiasco's energetic delivery. However the lasting impression of the Tripod show was that Lupe Fiasco is a fresh, new lyricalist who’s here to stay. Watch out Jay-Z and Kanye, the next generation of rap has arrived.

Ronan Lawlor


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02

The Duke Spirit (live in The Village, Dublin)

The Duke SpiritReview Snapshot: Undaunted by less than perfect sound, the headliners delivered up to their reputation and a set that left the crowd panting, even if the supports failed to make an impression.

The Cluas Verdict?  7 out of 10

Full Review:
Each time I go to the Village, I find another reason to dislike it as a venue. Sometimes it’s the crowd; sometimes the painfully cool and smooth veneer, its attempts at looking like an underground venue while having fake-marbled, mirror-lined bathrooms. On Sunday it was the sound. While the Village has one of the better sound systems in the Dublin area venue circuit, the effect of this is too often ruined by having the volume turned up to 11: four or five instruments become smushed into one mashed-up whole with occasional words, high registers become toneless squeals and low registers become painful thumps. So while the crowd was big and enthusiastic enough to absorb the volume – and energy – generated by the Duke Spirit, the support acts suffered.

David Hope, acting as opener, is nothing more than a big sweet man playing big sweet songs, and as such was instantly likeable, but as quickly forgettable. Sweet Jane, suffering as their sound was from the aforementioned volume problems, were only just on the bearable side of ear-popping, although whether greater clarity of sound would have improved their performance or not is difficult to say. Not only did the Dublin band take their name from another band, but it appeared most of their music too. Obviously a little too overtaken by admiration for bands of the grungy and shoegazing past, a lacklustre set culminating with their almost superfluous female singer smashing her tambourine and writhing in what she seemed to think was a seductive manner. So rock’n’roll, man.

Despite the unsubtle excellence of their debut album Cuts Across the Land, the Duke Spirit have proven that they are undoubtedly a live band. Stripped down to bare basics, their songs are simple, but have a great depth of sound, reaching down to the bowels and up to the pinnacle of the sound spectrum. After suffering from the dreaded sophomore slump – latest album Neptune simply fails to live up to its predecessor’s edge – new songs such as Sovereign, Send A Little Love Token and My Sunken Treasure were given an energy and verve to match the darker counterparts from Cuts…, such as Red Weather Hill.

As a band, the Duke Spirit are tight, original, energetic and exciting, but collective talent aside, it is equally undeniably Liela Moss that is the heart and soul. One of the best frontpersons to be seen in a band in at least a decade, she long ago reached the poise, sexiness, confidence and sheer rock energy that the aforementioned posturing Sweet Jane frontlady, among others, strives for. Her stage presence, passion, moves and that voice all combine to make her a formidable entity, a ball of blazing energy that commands your attention, although never enough to overshadow her bandmates.

The Duke Spirit records may be good, but live they pound, they scream, they rock, and they make you move.

Anna Murray


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06

Sebastien Tellier (live at the Centre Pompidou, Paris)

Sebastien TellierReview Snapshot: An unusual location for, it must be said, a singular performer. The hairy, scary electronician brings his French lover routine to the famous Paris contemporary art museum. Unfortunately, his new synth-ballad material is nothing to get excited about. But the stripped-down version of 'La Ritournelle' was marvellous - and Tellier is always an engaging and entertaining live performer.

The Cluas Verdict? 7 out of 10

Full Review:
Have you been to the Centre Pompidou? You know where we mean. Wedged between naff Les Halles, sleazy Rue Saint Denis and ultra-hip Le Marais. Ugly on the outside, conceptually-arty on the inside. Music blaring on the plaza in front of it, either cutting-edge Tecktonik dancers or hitsville buskers. From the top, a great view of all Paris.

No better location, then, for Sebastien Tellier to showcase his new album, 'Sexuality', on 29 February last. A mixture of naff late-eighties Bowie, sleazy mid-eighties Prince and ultra-hip Giorgio Moroder and, emmm, Jean Michel Jarre. A concept album about sex, wrapped in sleeve art that's supremely awful: dumb, sexist and ugly. It's a record that's fashionable and traditional at once, and overall that sums up Paris for us.

 A seated theatre within an art gallery is probably not the best setting for this music; it kills excitement and encourages pretentiousness. But Tellier, tall and hairy like his rugby-playing near-namesake Sebastien Chabal, used his assertive physical presence and erratic personality to great effect; he put on a highly entertaining show.

The new material featured a lot of slow, synthy, two-step ballads in an '80s R n' B style: the working title for a track like 'Divine' might well have been 'Love Theme From "Beverly Hills Cop"'. You won't need to hear it. Now and then a vocoder effect would remind us that we were in Paris and that Guy-Man from Daft Punk had produced these tracks for Tellier. In truth, apart from the Jarre-esque 'Sexual Sportswear' there was little to tell the new songs apart.

But why was there a baseball bat lying centre-stage? Would he symbolically smash up the keyboards mid-song and carry on with ukelele? No, it was only a phallic prop: halfway through the show Tellier kneeled over it to give it a few languid, suggestive strokes. That was the beginning and end of any on-stage raunchiness to match the album's theme.

Much sexier was Tellier hunched over the piano, pounding out the familiar rolling chords of 'La Ritournelle'. Even with him slowing down the sung verses and wrecking the romantic buzz somewhat, the song was still as enthralling as ever. It was Tellier's only concession that night to the folksy, shambling style of previous album 'Politics'.

Tellier's scattered unpredicability will always make for fascinating concerts, and it's a pity that none of this volatility has made it into his new material. But that's modern art for you; dangerous people making dull things.

Aidan Curran


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21

British Sea Power (live in Whelan's, Dublin)

Review Snapshot:  I should have known not to listen when a friend told me that I'd 'never see a better band live' than British Sea Power.  In my head I was expecting magic not seen since Maradona picked up the ball in his own half and thought to himself 'You know what?  I think I've the beating of that Peter Reid bloke.'  No matter what British Sea Power did on or off stage, I found myself thinking throughout 'Is this best live band I've ever seen?'  The answer, sadly, was no.

The Cluas Verdict? 5 out of 10

Full Review:British Sea Power
Having heard only snatches of British Sea Power's first two albums - The Decline of British Sea Power and Open Season - I got my hands on a copy of their latest album - Do you like Rock Music - only because the answer is yes, yes I do.  Unfortunately, I didn't like the album quite so much.

However, given the almost reverential tones in which my friend had spoken of the band, I was more than willing to give them another chance.  Sadly, they weren't the greatest band I've ever seen live.  Sure, British Sea Power can put on a show, but no amount of stage diving or stage invasions can take away from the fact that, well, the band makes mediocre music.  While songs about Eastern European migration and Swans dying from Bird Flu are conceptually interesting, in reality, they are just too unadventurous in their delivery to warrant the comparisons that were being made to The Flaming Lips and Arcade Fire

Arcade Fire, two words that will probably haunt British Sea Power their entire career.  Had the Canadians not come along and stolen their thunder, British Sea Power could well be the biggest band in the world right now.  Certainly they show that, when they want to, they can make exceptional music.  Songs like Remember Me show that British Sea Power were making epic music before anyone noticed the smoke coming from the back of the arcade.  Alas, somewhere along the way, dressing like medieval farmers and horn solo's from the second floor of the venue seem to have replaced making interesting music in the band's list of priorities.

The lowlight of the evening (aside from Halves, the support band who try so hard to be as experimental as Radiohead that they end up sounding like the noise that comes from your radiator as it heats up) is No Lucifer, proving - as if proof were needed after John Barnes' "rap" - that football and music don't mix.  The chant of 'easy, easy' - you know the one you heard Ricky Hatton's fans chanting before Floyd Mayweather went on to prove just how easy it could be - signals the start of this song and just when you are expecting something exceptional to save the song, well, not very much happens. 

Overall, for the casual observer, British Sea Power frustrate more than they fascinate.  I'm sure, because some told me, that there were those who really enjoyed this gig, but for me it showed two sides of the band: what might have been and what they've become. Theatrics and antics only get you so far when the strength of your songs can't match the pyrotechnics of your performance.

Steven O'Rourke


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18

Biffy Clyro (live in The Ambassador Theatre, Dublin)

Review Snapshot:  If you've ever had a lover who's traded you in for a younger, more fashionable model, you'll know exactly how I feel after Biffy's performance tonight.  Sure, they still casts longing glances in your direction that make you feel all warm inside, but you know, in your heart of hearts, that they're more interested in the Top Shop Rock & Roller now and that, alas, your time has passed.

The Cluas Verdict? 5 out of 10

Biffy Clyro

Full Review:
Arriving at 8pm to ensure I could get a good spot near the front, I was surprised to see that The Future Kings of Spain were already onstage and had begun their support slot.  What surprised me even more was the crowd.  Suddenly, I felt as if I'd turned up at a My Chemical Romance or HIM gig as there was enough black and white stripes on show to repave every zebra crossing in the country.   And they were so young.  I thought I'd at least hit the 30 mark before I felt old at a gig but tonight I genuinely did.

The Future Kings of Spain set contained some 'interesting' versions of old and new songs and culminated in a full version of Syndicate, without doubt my favourite song this year.  Lead singer Joey Wilson's remark that 'It's nice to see a big crowd here to support Biffy Clyro,' sparked memories of the first time I saw both bands in The Temple Bar Music Centre many years ago.  Essentially, the venue contained my future wife and brother in law, various members of Snow Patrol and JJ72 and, well, that's about it.  Tonight, however, while the venue isn't quite full, it's clear that support for Biffy is growing.

Entering to Bowie's Let's Dance; Biffy launch their set with the rousing triumvirate of Saturday Superhouse, Who's got a Match and Justboy.  The reaction of the crowd to the three is bizarre.  The first two, taken from Biffy's latest album, Puzzle, are warmly greeted but for Justboy, taken from the bands debut album, Blackened Sky, the reaction is much more muted.  As the set goes on I begin to figure out why. 

There are two distinct sets of fans here to see Biffy tonight.  One, like myself, who are beginning to believe that Biffy's greatest work is behind them and that they've yet to improve on anything Blackened Sky or The Vertigo of Bliss had to offer.  The other set, like the group in front of me who had a body odour contest during All The Way Down, have come to Biffy at a time when the band are exploring a new, more mainstream, direction.  Of course, there were people here tonight who like both Biffy's, but to me there is a clear shift in their fanbase with age being the most defining characteristic.  I became a fan of Biffy Clyro because they made music that appealed to me at 19 or 20.  Tonight I realise that Biffy's new musical direction appeals to the very same age group, but no longer to me.

Only twice tonight does the whole crowd unite; both times in the encore.  Machines is performed solo by Simon but he has the entire crowd on backing vocals.  And then, the final song of the evening, 57.  It's the best version I've heard of Biffy's trademark song yet, and it's great to see the band perform the song with as much enthusiasm this time, possibly the one thousandth time they've played it, as the first.  It does, however, leave a taste in the mouth.  This is what might have been for Biffy but they've chosen another path and good luck to them.  On nights like this though, I wish they'd stop teasing me with reminders that they were the one who got away.

Steven O'Rourke


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11

Interpol (live in The RDS, Dublin)

Interpol LiveReview Snapshot: There are certain ingredients that, when combined in appropriate quantities, make the gig going experience more enjoyable. Personally, I find the best gigs combine a good helping of cold beer, a sprinkling of atmosphere and a bucketful of songs, all mixed together in a decent venue. It's a pity then that Interpol only got two of the four right tonight, and they weren't even serving the beer.

The Cluas Verdict? 3 out of 10

Full Review:
For weeks there has been a little voice inside my head telling me not to go to Interpol tonight. As is often the recommended course of action, I ignored it. I also ignored the fact that the gig was taking place in the RDS a venue that, despite attending more gigs than my otologist would deem safe, I had yet to attend. You see, the Royal Dublin Society and I have history.

 Those of you who’ve left school or college recently will be more than familiar with the RDS as the designated venue for a succession of dull employment and further education seminars. I used to hate these days with a passion matched only by my love of Athletic Bilbao and music.  However, it appeared that I was destined to be dragged along by one Career Guidance Councillor after another. ‘What would you like to do after college?’ they’d ask. No matter my reply, from ‘I’d like to herd lama’s in the Peru’ to ‘I want to spend my working day writing for CLUAS', said Councillor would say ‘Oh, great, well there’s the perfect seminar on in the RDS this weekend, I’ll bring you.’

 And that’s what the RDS is; a seminar venue. It has all the charm of a mugger and all the subtIety of Las Vegas.  It’s not appropriate as a music venue and it’s not an appropriate setting for seeing your favourite band. Up until tonight that’s exactly what Interpol were, but after a lack lustre performance I’m no longer sure. The songs were tight and the sound was excellent, but if I wanted to hear Interpol play the songs exactly as I'd heard them on my MP3 on the way in, I’d have stayed on the bus.

 A set that started so promisingly with Pioneer to The Falls and Obstacle 1 just failed to ignite. Anytime momentum built, such as when crowd favourites Evil and The Heinrich Maneuver were played back to back, Paul Banks and Co. would conspire to pull back and play a slower track. It was almost as if they were afraid of bringing the roof down, as Kings of Leon managed earlier this week.  Banks looked as if he'd been dragged along to one of the aforementioned seminars and seemed more intent on racing through the set-list – 15 songs in one hour – than building up a rapport with the audience. Cool, disinterested stares are all well and good for the front of Rolling Stone, but when hundreds of punters have paid close to €50 to see you the least they can expect back is an acknowledgement of their presence.

Despite all of this, the performance of each individual song cannot be faulted; Slow Hands and No I in Threesome being particular highlights. But, as those of you who attend more than one gig a year know, it takes more than just good songs to make a good gig. Great gigs, the ones that leave you grinning like an idiot when you think about them weeks, months, even years later, leave you covered in sweat, down on your knees and begging for more.  Tonight, Interpol showed up and delivered a performance that was as forgettable as that other thing, you know the one, with the hair, no?

Overall, as my Guidance Councillor said far too often, ‘Must try harder.’

There are certain ingredients that, when combined in appropriate quantities, make the gig going experience more enjoyable. Personally, I find the best gigs combine a good helping of cold beer, a sprinkling of atmosphere and a bucketful of songs, all mixed together in a decent venue. It’s a pity then that Interpol only got two of the four right tonight, and they weren’t even serving the beer.

Steven O'Rourke


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10

Bruce Springsteen & the E Street band (Sports Arena, Los Angeles)

Bruce Springsteen liveReview Snapshot: Springsteen and the E Street band are full of rage and despair and hope and faith. Their tour is a call to meeting for people who aren't ready to give up yet.

The Cluas Verdict? 9 out of 10 (10 being reserved for the 4 hour Springsteen shows of yesteryear)

Full Review:
The night after Ronald Reagan was elected, in 1980, Bruce Springsteen opened his show with an especially roaring, impassioned performance of Badlands. He saw it coming: the rape and pillage that would be the Reagan years.

Springsteen's still at it, though with a new group of pillagers to confront. His defense against the Reactionary tide in America has long been to shout about where we are going wrong, but also to present an alternative view of what "America" means. It's not support of Salvadoran death squads and Nicaraguan contras, nor Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and torture.

His "America" is more about hope and decency and girls in their summer clothes (or barefoot, sitting on the hood of a Dodge, drinking warm beer in the soft summer rain).

In his current shows Springsteen is still on his mission for the soul of America. This show has a beautiful emotional arc from frustration to longing for a better life to despair and anger to resistance to celebration of what is good in us.

The show is built around two sequences that remain, night to night. Early in the show comes Lonesome Day/Gypsy Biker/Magic/Reason To Believe. Springsteen ends this bleak run with an un-cynical ray of hope. Reason To Believe is transformed into a harmonica swamp blues that would make Sonny Boy Williamson proud.

The second big statement is the sequence that closes the main set: Devil's Arcade/The Rising/Last To Die/Long Walk Home/Badlands. Springsteen says, "That thing has to come down like the world's falling on you, that first chord [Last to Die]. It's got to screech at the end of 'The Rising', and then it's got to crack, rumble. The whole night is going to turn on that segue. That's what we're up there for right now, that 30 seconds."

He ends the main set with the challenge of Badlands, again standing up and taking on what's ahead and asking us to join him.

The show is also filled with songs that compliment his themes of commitment to community (Ties That Bind, Promised Land, No Surrender, Two Hearts) and the decency of "real" people (Working On The Highway, Racing In The Streets, Night).

The show ends with American Land, the Irish-styled romp about the dream of the promised land. Complete with two accordions, Clarence Clemons on the penny whistle, and sing-along lyrics up on the screens, B.S. & band send us off inspired about what is at stake and, hopefully, motivated to bring back the real "America".

I don't know how this show will come across outside the U.S., but it sure reminds us here that we are better than our "leaders" have made us out to be.

John Ford

Springsteen's set list, Los Angeles Sports Arena

Radio Nowhere
The Ties That Bind
Lonesome Day
Gypsy Biker
Magic
Reason To Believe
Night
She's The One
Livin' In The Future
The Promised Land
Town Called Heartbreak
Tunnel Of Love
Working On The Highway
Devil's Arcade
The Rising
Last To Die
Long Walk Home
Badlands

Girls In Their Summer Clothes
Kitty's Back
Born To Run
Dancing In The Dark
American Land


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18

Broken Social Scene Presents... Kevin Drew (live in Tripod, Dublin)

Review Snapshot: With a blistering new album and a back catalogue of modest repute to boot, Kevin Drew must find it hard not impressing audiences. Here with BSS aficionados Brendan Canning, Justin Peroff, plus members of American Analogue Set and Treble Charger, the capacity Tripod is gradually stirred from any ideas of a relaxing Sunday evening.

The Cluas Verdict? 8.8 out of 10

Full Review:

Broken Social Scene Presents... Kevin DrewStarting off slowly with an acoustic rendition of Gangbang Suicide, Drew gave a slow greeting until the drums kicked in with a controlled ferocity by Peroff. Things gradually picked up as Drew knocked the complementary booze back. Introducing the audience to his so-called solo work with Tbtf, F--ked Up Kids, Lucky Ones, Frightening Lives and the quite magnificent single Backed out on the…, it’s hard to find any defined distinction in the general sound from Broken Social Scene. That is of course a thing to be cherished. I, like many, was none too happy at the news that the super group were on hiatus indefinitely after their Electric Picnic appearance in 2006. 

Songs from the Spirit if… album all have that familiar precise carelessness to their sound: light acoustic guitars, magnetic riffs, effective electronic touches and the ever-present jangle that is the trademark BSS sound. But Drew is back with a new fire in his belly and socks on his wrists (no one seemed to know or care why) and judging by the leaner Brendan Canning song that was played, the prospect of further Broken Social Scene presents… albums is indeed something to wait for with bated breath. The band have one or two forgetful moments but it's done without losing any vitality to the set.

Whilst his own songs will inevitably be embraced as part of the new BSS canon, it is Cause=Time (the "best song in the world" according to the dude in the toilets), Stars and Sons (the song that eventually kickstarts the gig) and Lover’s Spit that received the most applause. With time the latest will most likely fit comfortably with these classics as crowd favourites.

The sound, as at any BSS type gig was a bit ropey at times and at times bordered on distortion due to the movements and instrument changes, but it was reigned in and harnessed the sound, giving some of the softer songs a harder edge.

My one problem with the gig was its lack of Ibi Dreams of Pavement or KC Accidental purely from a disappointed fan point of view, but I am convinced that Kevin Drew and co. have the potential of playing the perfect gig in any situation. Whether it is dance, chill out acoustic with jazzy trumpets or straight up rock, (not forgetting the sweet sleaziness of a drag queen that imbues his songs with a gentle, yet adult, nip to the lyrical ear) the Broken Social Scene crew can seemingly do it all

As the unfortunate end approached the audience were reluctantly compelled to belt out U2’s Where the Streets have no Name. The look on most people’s faces said “screw it” and let rip with knowing smiles, and it's that unabashedness that makes Drew such a likeable performer. Drew teased the crowd with his chant of “where was the kid who f—cked me in the ass”, the opening lyrics to the ten minute show-stopper It’s All Gonna Break but instead we were sent home to the merry singalong of When it Begins.

The rest of the band crowd around mics at stage right as Brendan Canning strums along and Drew conducts the audience to end a superb gig. It seems to be a goodbye to friends old and new rather than an anonymous crowd in a nameless city.

Daire Hall


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13

Mos Def (live in the Village, Dublin)

Mos DefReview Snapshot: With technical difficulties and a delayed start, Mos Def needed to win over the impatient crowd in a big way. Unfortunately, due to the patchy nature of his set, this didn't happen and ultimately made for a disappointing gig.

The Cluas Verdict? 4 out of 10

Full Review:
9pm: I've been standing here, waiting for Mos Def to arrive, for so long that I'm expecting three Mos Def's to come along at once. I am a sweaty member of an impatient crowd waiting for things to kick off. According to our tickets, the gig is from 8-11pm, so most of us arrived about an hour ago. Three hours seemed an unlikely duration for a hiphop gig, so I was expecting a support act or at least a DJ set before Mos Def's appearance. Instead, for the past hour they've been playing what sounds like a brass band/hip-hop mix-tape over the soundsystem. It was vaguely distracting for the first half an hour but now I'm trapped in an uncomfortable full-bladdered, cold drink-craving limbo; too afraid to leave my sardine tin position for fear the mighty Mos Def will finally emerge.

10pm: The crowd begins to vocalise its impatience. The initial murmurs of dissent build to a crescendo of booing, which spreads through the venue like a disgruntled mexican wave. I join in enthusiastically.

10.45: Finally, yes finally, Mos Def emerges, citing technical difficulties for the delay. (Actually I can't hear him very well but I presume that's what he said.) The crowd are surprisingly forgiving and the boos metamorphosise into welcoming cheers. It seems the audience are determind to enjoy the show now that it is finally underway.

The show begins and the biggest crowd-pleasers seem to be from Mos Def's acclaimed 1999 album, Black on both Sides. 'Mathematics' and 'Ms. Fat Booty' go down particularly well with the audience. After rambling on about his respect for fellow artist Madlib (who is apparently at the gig) for a bit, he also showcases a brand new track called 'Auditorium'. He either says that this was inspired by Madlib or a collaboration with Madlib, but given the seriously dodgy sound quality of the ill-fated Village, I can't make out which. There is also some old school material in the form of a track by BlackStar, his early collaboration with fellow hip-hop artist, Talib Kweli.

His performance of these tracks is energetic and the crowd is responsive. However the overall gig is far less than the sum of its parts, making it difficult to fully enjoy. The flow of the set is interrupted by random accapella warblings and intermittent DJ sets. Don't get me wrong, his DJ is playing some great tunes. Marvin Gaye's 'What's going on', for one, is a fantastic track. If I heard it on an average night out, I'd be more than happy. It's just that, after paying to see Mos Def, I was expecting to hear, well, Mos Def tracks. As though sensing the crowds' impatience, he lanches into a particularly stirring rendition of 'Umi says'. It is certainly a gig highlight, but coming so close to the end of the set, it is simply a case of too little, too late.

12.30: An unusually subdued audience obediently files out of The Village to the welcoming cool air outside. Expectations were high and due to problems with the quality of the venue and Mos Def's patchy performance, this gig simply failed to deliver. The general atmosphere on leaving the gig is one of resigned disappointment.

Máire T Robinson


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Nuggets from our archive

2004 - The CLUAS Reviews of Erin McKeown's album 'Grand'. There was the positive review of the album (by Cormac Looney) and the entertainingly negative review (by Jules Jackson). These two reviews being the finest manifestations of what became affectionately known, around these parts at least, as the 'McKeown wars'.