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Haircut 100 live in Dublin: ‘There’s love here, isn’t there? Let’s do it!’

Irish debut for 1980s pop band filled with upbeat energy and their fan base are thrilled to have them

Haircut 100 performing at Vicar Street, Dublin. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Haircut 100

Vicar Street

On stage with his band Haircut 100, 1980s pop star Nick Heyward might be the happiest man in the world. Looking a good two decades short of his 62 years, the chipper singer can’t stop smiling. “This is a song about love,” he says at one point (many of their songs are). “There’s love here, isn’t there? Let’s do it!”

That upbeat energy is reflected in Haircut 100′s music – frisky funk-pop that exists at a feel-good nexus between Talking Heads, A Certain Ratio and Johnny Hates Jazz. With their catchy, surging grooves and avalanches of saxophone, belters such as Love Plus One and Nobody’s Fool have retained the boyish lustre they possessed 40 years ago when Haircut 100 were storming the charts and becoming Smash Hits favourites.

That was before Heyward, feeling pressured to write hits to order, quit and went on to a successful solo career. Now he and Haircut 100 are back and playing Dublin for the first time. It’s quite a debut: the band are delighted to be here, their fan base thrilled to have them.

Haircut 100 released just one album, Pelican West, before their pop dreams turned sour and at Vicar Street they play 11 of its 12 tracks. With lashings of brass and a jittery bounce, there is a clear debt to a fellow son of Bromley in South London, David Bowie – in particular, the plastic funk of his Young Americans phase.

Nick Heyward and Haircut 100 at Vicar Street, Dublin. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw
Haircut 100 playing at Vicar Street, Dublin. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

But the playful urgency is original to Haircut 100. Guitars shuffle extravagantly on Milk Film and Snow Girl as Heyward negotiates the heart-on-sleeve lyrics and bassist Les Nemes wobbles on the spot. The tone grows heavier on Nobody’s Fool, which sounds like Lloyd Cole writing a Studio 54 disco bopper.

There are new songs, too, suggesting that the group’s gift for high-powered jauntiness has not deserted them. Jangling gusto similarly infuses their cover of Harry Styles’s As It Was – a tune that seems forever on the brink of figuring out where it wants the chorus to go yet never entirely gets there.

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Haircut 100, by contrast, hit the mark with a flourish on the final number, an extended version of Favourite Shirts (Boy Meets Girl) that has boys and girls of every age on their feet and dancing like it’s 1982. It isn’t – but when the evergreen Heyward cracks a smile, it is easy to believe time has stopped and that he, and everyone else in the room, is forever young.

Nick Heyward of Haircut 100. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw
Haircut 100's Graham Jones. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw
Haircut 100. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw
Les Nemes of Haircut 100. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw
Ed Power

Ed Power

Ed Power, a contributor to The Irish Times, writes about television and other cultural topics