The Red House Painters
Review of their gig in the Olympia Theatre, May 7th 2001
In 1998, Red House Painters played their first-ever Irish gig to a packed and eager house and ironically it could well have been one of their last. Ever. Instead, after a three-year hiatus, they reformed to promote the current album 'Old Ramon', deciding to commence the tour in Dublin; hence this is another first gig? in a way. A second chance?
Perhaps they feel they owed us. Three years ago at Dublin's Mean Fiddler, the cracks were not so much evident as wide enough to swallow the entire stage, band and all. Appropriately enough for a band hailing from earthquake-central San Francisco, but in the slew of that meandering, impersonal gig Red House Painters showed little respect for their rapt audience and subsequently lost quite a few of their Dublin friends. Some have since returned but at the tail end of a spinning Heineken weekender, this time around, the Olympia Theatre is only partially full. This time around?
They open with the familiar 'Grace Cathedral Park', Kozelek's voice a sonorous propulsion that fills the entire proscenium arch of the Olympia and resonates throughout the ragtime hall. From the start, a tremor here and there (that metaphor again) belies the nervousness that he later professes. It's a shut-up and listen gig, which is exactly what this audience had hoped it would be - the band turning inwards to each other, building a drowsy empire of guitar, frowning and smiling betimes. A song about a three-legged cat (very Phoebe) featuring a vocal debut from the Painters' drummer is an unexpected comic highlight, but what guides us all through this beautiful performance is the warm light nestling in the heart of the band, back on track. New songs soar but the inevitable coda is 'Mistress', lilting and lovelorn and sad. Friends again. Amen.