Poetry, swagger and a little trembling at Other Voices
David Gray, Hozier, Lisa O’Neill and Patti Griffin make for the real deal in Dingle
David Gray performing in Dublin in 2011. His latest incarnation is a vocal-led album and Irish tour in a supergroup of sorts, with his band featuring David Kitt, Lisa O’Neill, Mossy Nolan and more. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times
His latest incarnation is a vocal-led album and Irish tour in a supergroup of sorts, with his band featuring David Kitt, Lisa O’Neill, Mossy Nolan and more. The transformation is rather brilliant.
Gray and co hold the stage with elegance, and a sound in development that feels as though it could go on a fascinating journey. Gray’s White Ladder looms, as he put it during the Banter session, like a giant tower on the landscape in his career.
Hozier performs Work Song at Other Voices
It’s impossible to ignore, but he chooses to play seven new enough tunes instead of drawing from the hits, and includes the brilliant Nemesis from the album Draw The Line.
A brace of songs, Dun Laoghaire and Skellig, reinforce Gray’s attachment to Ireland, but there’s a broader connection to the land here, a synergy of voices that shrouds everything beautifully, like the mist clearing from Dingle in the morning.
Moving on, there are a lot of eyes on Hozier at the moment. The Wicklow man’s song and video, Take Me To Church, have thrust him into Music Industry Warp Speed mode. There’s also a sense that everyone might be ready for lift-off apart from Andrew Hozier Byrne himself.
The deep and expansive melodic blues Hozier plays are perfect for St James’s Church, even though the nerves are plain to see, a trembling hand here, some trepidatious handclap accompaniment there.
There’s no denying that Hozier’s dramatic pop is magic. He has some seriously hot songs getting an airing here, and his voice is something else, filling every corner of the church. At times, his band are reaching, possibly devoid of a confident swagger that Hozier himself will start to need surrounding him, not just in the boardrooms of record labels, but on the stage itself.
Nevertheless the crowd rises to their feet, the first standing ovation of Other Voices 2013.
Someone who saddles up with as much swagger as John Wayne is the tiny Lisa O’Neill, a Cavan musician who is finally getting credit for her timeless, unique music, and a charisma that is wonderfully strange. O’Neill knocks ’em dead with tracks from Same Cloth Or Not.
It’s not just her voice that enchants, but the simple power of her understated accompanying players. As O’Neill wriggles and writhes to articulate the squirming poetry of her music, you can see why Gray chose her as a vocal partner.
Both of their voices slice through the air, and O’Neill’s goes that bit further, melodies and lyrics dancing around the night sky like her beloved fireflies.
Patti Griffin has, meanwhile, come home. Her grandmother grew up on John Street in Dingle and now here she is, the Grammy-winning folk singer, bringing her tunes back to west Kerry.
Griffin plays acoustic guitar with a fine country, blues and folk disposition, as brutal on the strings as she is delicate, crossing genres with songs about her grandparents, George W Bush, and a crappy cowboy ex-boyfriend.
Stomping her way through her solo set, the highlight comes at the end, with a tune about her grandmother, Mary O’Connor, covered in roses, covered in ashes, covered in babies.
Bringing it all back home, Griffin tears up, as the gravity of such a homecoming takes hold. “What a gathering we’ve had this evening,” Philip King says. What a gathering indeed.