Monday, September 17, 2012

One night, Three gigs, Four Venues

Efterklang in rehearsal before Cork Opera House gig

The best way to counteract a quiet Friday night in? Go to three great gigs in three different venues the following evening. Simple. It all begins in IMRO's 2012 venue of the year...

It is difficult to compare the grey, stagnant* Emmet Place structure of 2010 to the flourishing faucet of fresh ideas and endless enthusiasm that is the Cork Opera House as we know and love today. A growing list of gargantuan talent including Ryan Adams, Amiina, Bonnie "Prince" Billy and The Magnetic Fields have all graced Cork's centre of creative excellence in the past 18 months with Saturday's visit of Denmark's Efterklang possibly the pick of the incredibly ripe bunch so far. The boundlessly brave trio are a ideal match for the Leeside location, having wandered in the direction of the north pole to the abandoned outpost of Spitsbergen in order to record the soon-to-be-released Piramida. It is this record in its entirety (and some tracks more than once), accompanied by the 24-strong COH-assembled Major Lift Orchestra that is unveiled for the 700 or so fortunate ticket-holders who will leave the theatre mesmerised and dumbfounded come 10.30pm.

*So much so that the building had to close for the Summer months to save money

Following the lead of their two dozen now-seated temporary band mates, Casper, Rasmus and Mads - accompanied by master stick-handler Earl Harvin (Tindersticks) on drums and multi-talented Efterklang perma-guest Peter Broderick on keys and backing vocals - appear on stage like three shooting stars stopping off to shed a little stardust with us mere mortals, illuminating the hall with beaming smiles and gleaming grins. Due to the sheer ambition of the tour, the setlist is restricted to tracks from the band's fourth studio album yet this only adds to the almost tangible feeling that something special is afoot.

Stunning opener 'Hollow Mountain' is the perfect example of a band who know how to diligently carve a composition; A dramatic slow build, showcasing the astounding vocal abilities of the three backing singers who complete the on-stage team for the night, cuts to just keyboards and Casper for a verse leaving thirty odd musicians idle for the sake of the song, the only point that matters. The swell of strings and the broad-chested bravado of the brass section sweep, the concluding notes attracting an applause generous for a set closer, never mind the first of the night. Before Casper and co. had even played a note they looked to be enjoying their maiden Cork Opera House voyage, navigating each new arrangement with the precise control and playful discipline of a master naval commander, letting the orchestral waves work in their favour rather than pulling at the wheel. As expected from viewing the previously released footage from their recent stint in Sydney, 'The Ghost' - quite possibly an apex for the trio - is something seemingly not of this world, the mantric repetition of the title is as hypnotic as the spiralling strings.

Besides the heady horn heights of 'Apples' - and trust me this is not a slight on the performance in any way - the vast majority of the set is unrecognisable, obviously as most is yet unreleased. This said, the tingling opening tremors of 'Modern Drift' from 2010's Magic Chairs is met with rapturous applause seeing out the official encore before the not-quite-so-official repeat of 'The Ghost' brings the seated crowd to its feet. Sincere ('The Ghost''s repetition due to the fact nothing else had been prepared), unexpected encores are a rarity these days with Casper playfully toying with the crowd with the statement "when the lights go out you are supposed to go home". Throughout ninety glorious minutes, Efterklang reach highs they may struggle to recreate ever again so good is this display, every second delivered with smiles from three modest individuals who hoist the flag high for everything that is good in the musical world. A special night orchestrated by special people. All that remains to be said is a huge thank you to Mary Hickson and the Cork Opera House for making it happen.

Setlist:
01. Hollow Mountain
02. Apples
03. Sedna
04. Told To Be Fine
05. The Living Layer
06. The Ghost
07. Black Summer
08. Dreams Today
09. Between The Walls
10. Monument

Encore:
11. Monopolist
12. Modern Drift

Encore 2:
13. The Ghost


And so to Cyprus Avenue for the official launch of the Drop-d Who Dares Wins compilation. Unfortunately a busy night has taken its toll on the numbers in attendance on Caroline Street and the almost life-changing experience of the previous two hours makes it difficult for electro duo Versives to make much impact. 'Harpoon' and 'Two Enemies' stand out but big beats are built for packed dancefloors and unfortunately that is not the case tonight. Scratch this one off due to circumstances as impossible tasks are named so for a reason.

Trumpets of Jericho are a different proposition altogether. Judging by the mini Pink Floyd-esque wall built between crowd and bass player, crowd numbers are optional when it comes to live brilliance. A mix of old ('Nothing To Get Up For', 'Pure Love, Like') and new ('Post Apocalyptic in Ringaskiddy', 'Emigrant Song') is unleashed coiled rattlesnake style, the band's belief in their own abilities blatantly growing with every extra second they spend on stage together, frontman Tom Healy's voice soaring and soothing whenever appropriate. Go see these guys in the Triskel as part of the Noise Weekender in two weeks time. Trust me.


Live music wise the last stop brings me to the aforementioned Triskel for the end of Jogging's album launch. Two searing tunes are caught before time is called on what seems to have been a wild one. There is a lot to be said for omnipotence, multi-gig-attendance one such pro.

A couple of tasty tipples are had in Gulpd before The Pavilion calls for late night orderings and musings. Too many are had before the zombie-esque slowdrag for chips begins. And sleep.

See Noise for some great Triskel pics.


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