A rousing reception greeted Celbridge’s finest, a band who have gone from losing members left, right and well not quite centre yet, to soundtracking American drama. Their four night homecoming party was in full flow for their third night of four at Vicar Street. I wasn’t sure what to expect from Bell x1 to the power of 3 (not the original 5 or 6 of Juniper), but in a live setting, they’re just as good, if not better than they’ve always been.
Every show should open with cowbell, and this one did not disappoint. The cowbell heavy ‘A Better Band’ started us off on a high, before increasing the tempo with classic ‘Alphabet Soup’. I have a soft spot for banjo-led tunes, and thus ‘Alphabet Soup’ is a favourite of mine. (Thanks Dave Geraghty for the banjo work, we need more.) I was delighted to hear it here.
In High Fidelity, Nick Hornby waxes lyrical about the art of making the perfect mixtape, you start well, build up higher for the second track and then slow it down for the third, so not as to run out of steam. Making live setlists must be the same, as this is exactly what Bell x1 did last night. ‘Bad Skin Day’ calmed things down before technical hitches tried to interrupt the excellent new tune ‘How Your Heart is Wired’.
The crowd as a whole were great, but during some of the newer songs (such as ‘How Your Heart is Wired’, and later ‘Amelia’) there was chatting in certain areas. This all stopped when ‘Eve, the Apple of My Eye’ was played, and everyone in Vicar Street sang along. Before beginning ‘Amelia’, Paul Noonan thanked us all for coming and taking photos and told a funny aside about a website of musician’s sex faces in photos. You had to be there. You should’ve been there. It was amazing. There’s still a chance to get tickets for tonight!
Current single ‘The Great Defector’ roused us all up again and is already a fan favourite. This segued perfectly into ‘Tongue’, and showed how the old and new mix perfectly. They haven’t lost it, it’s just more refined now. ‘Flame’ brought the volume levels even higher, and pleased my other half no end. She loves the song. Rightly so.
Another amusing story was told about Pat Mustard and UHT milk before ‘Breastfed’. The main part of the set ended with ‘Rocky Took a Lover’, extra emphasis being put on the swear words. The song seems to be ingrained in all our consciousness. Also, the singalong ending to it provided a perfect foil for the usual nonsense chants of ‘Olé Olé’ during encore breaks.
During the break, a tech came on to put out another microphone, which I assumed would be for one of the Walls. How wrong I was. I knew it was her, recognised her, but still doubted myself until it was announced “ladies and gentlemen, Lisa Hannigan”. The band and Lisa performed a stellar version of her charity tune (with Gary Lightbody) ‘Some Surprise’, and it really was. A massive surprise. Also interesting seeing as how Damien split from them and she split from Damien. Amazing how close the Irish music scene is. Brilliant though.
Two new songs were next in the encore, the next single ‘Ribs of a Broken Umbrella’ (which we got a glimpse of the video – amazing is not the word), and the dirty little ditty ‘One Stringed Harp’, which the band admitted that they had doubts putting on the album. They made the right choice. Crowd banter got a little bit of ‘Happy Birthday’ sang for some girl called Louise, but I’m guessing it wasn’t Louise who shouted it out first.
The show ended perfectly with an extended version of another song from their best album. ‘I’ll See Your Heart, and I’ll Raise You Mine’ with a bit of The Smiths’ ‘There is a Light That Never Goes Out’ to end the show is smashing form. A fantastic return for one of Ireland’s finest bands, and no doubt one of the shows of the year.