Review: Blades as sharp as ever after nearly 30 years away

Paul Cleary and the band were in a league of their own, with a set including ‘Ghost of a Chance’ and ‘The Bride Wore White’

The Blades in 1985, a year before they broke up. Photograph: Terry Thorp

The Blades in 1985, a year before they broke up. Photograph: Terry Thorp


Judging by the audience reaction at last night’s sold-out gig at Dublin’s Olympia Theatre, you would think that The Blades were either a very successful established rock band or some kind of homecoming heroes – a band that, perhaps, had made it big in another part of the world and had returned home to give their Irish fans an early Christmas present.

In truth, The Blades have been missing in action. For the best part of 30 years, they have been a vivid memory, with the band’s lead singer, Paul Cleary, a figurehead for a class of social consciousness songwriter that now exists only on the fringes of the mainstream.

Yet listening to The Blades pumping out their music it was clear their songs were not so much a cut above the rest as often in a league of their own.

Still wiry, still a genial focal point, Cleary and the highly efficient band landed musical rabbit punches with the likes of Ghost of a Chance, The Bride Wore White, Hot for You, Animation, Downmarket, Boy One and other resonant punk/pop/soul tunes.

Before the show, Cleary was in a cautious frame of mind. “The transition from not wanting to get the band back to actually wanting it has been effortless, but my main aim is to make sure that the people who have paid for the tickets get their money’s worth.”

And when the dust settles, what then?

“I’m not sure,” says Cleary, pre-empting a query about whether the memories of The Blades are more significant than the music. “I just hope that people walk away thinking we’re better musicians.”