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Lankum review: A blistering night at a packed Vicar Street from the best Irish band of their generation

‘Finally back in the only place that really understands us,’ Ian Lynch announces as Lankum begin a three-night stint at the Dublin venue


Vicar Street, Dublin

In the Liberties on Monday night, Vicar Street is packed to the rafters. Outside it’s still bright and hot, but the streets of Dublin are quiet. Inside, the energy of a full crowd is heightening. Following Elaine Malone’s compelling support set, Lankum arrive on stage as titans, yet wearing the weight of their talent feather-light. Their latest album, False Lankum, is a remarkable piece of art, one that has enraptured listeners. Expectations for its live rendering are high.

The band open with The Wild Rover. The release is immediate. There is something about the frequency of tone, drone and pitch Lankum operate within that unlocks tension within the body and demands going with whatever follows. “Finally back in the only place that really understands us,” Ian Lynch announces.

As The New York Trader arrives, the tension they build and tear apart – that taut, fraying rope they both pull and slip along – remains. “Get up, yiz bowsies,” someone roars when they enter into The Rocky Road to Dublin. Following that, the transition starts, the gig pockmarked by maelstroms of transportive fugue noise, spells that reappear throughout the gig, as notes and sounds are pulled like gnarly, deep roots.

Lord Abore and Mary Flynn is a highlight, Cormac MacDiarmada’s voice a revelation live as well as on record. On they go, conjuring woozy descents as though sucking the audience through portals.


There’s an almost terrifying feeling that, four albums in, Ian and Darragh Lynch, Cormac MacDiarmada and Radie Peat, along with John “Spud” Murphy, are only getting going. False Lankum was a line crossed into territory for which only they hold the map. Comparisons to Radiohead and Sunn O))) are valid, but so too are other touchstones that come to mind, such as Low. References are somewhat irrelevant with Lankum, however. Trying to locate the comparable in the singular is a ludicrous exercise. This is a band on their own plain, as Go Dig My Grave – led by Peat, her voice a potent vocal incense – readily declares.

Expertly accompanied by John Dermody on drums, Rachel Hynes on piano and Murphy on sound, there’s little ceremony to the encore, with the band barely leaving the stage. Then Cold Old Fire lands, a sonic flag hoisted over the city.

Throughout every song the crowd is pin-drop silent, in awe and admiration. And rightly so. We are witnessing the best Irish band of their generation and beyond, expressing themselves in ways that cut to the essence of what great art is: a creative expression of the internal, external, spiritual, historical, contemporary and cosmic all at once. How liberating, how inspiring, how revolutionary is such a freeing articulation of pure talent and the honing of that talent through craft, dedication and graft. The sounds Lankum are urging forth come from the soul, the sky and the earth. On Thomas Street the potentiality of it boils like a sea in full storm.

Lankum play again at Vicar Street, Dublin 8, on Tuesday, May 30th, and Wednesday, May 30th

Una Mullally

Una Mullally

Una Mullally, a contributor to The Irish Times, writes a weekly opinion column