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Róisín Murphy review: Gifted performer takes crowd on immersive trip through her eclectic musical DNA

Embodying an old spirit with a wry modernity, Murphy’s Dublin performance is influenced by everything from Sheffield house music to Irish showbands, and jazz to Manchester’s sonic charms

Róisín Murphy

3Olympia, Dublin

“First night nerves,” Róisín Murphy says near the beginning of her performance, not that you would know, given what unfurls over the course of two hours. With her incredible band, Murphy is fully emblematic of the adage that hard work pays off. In the first of two sold out shows at Dublin’ 3Olympia, she takes us on an immersive trip around what has built her, and what she in turn has built.

It is a radiant assemblage – from the pumping Simulation to the sloping Dear Miami, Murphy starts the night off by reminding us that her “hit parade” started long before her most recent record. With a musical DNA that is as indebted to Sheffield house music as it is to Irish showbands, and jazz to Manchester’s eclectic sonic charms, Murphy embodies an old spirit with a wry modernity.

While she brings us previous collaborative glories with the beautifully rearranged The Time is Now and Sing it Back, tonight is mainly drawn from her solo records, with a pleasing citing of her debut, the wonkily brilliant Ruby Blue and the bewitching Ramalama (Bang Bang), as she sings “and if I need a rhythm, it’ll be to my heart I listen”. That heart, and her performance, trades on a kind of duality, the playfulness of her costume changes revealing this, referencing everything from a gorilla to a debutante, and a top-hat, cape-wearing magician, the latter of which is perhaps the most fitting, since she insists on using magic as metaphor. But what does the metaphor truly disclose? “What you expect me to toe the line for? Extra, read all about it, When you’re given fair warnings” she sings on the galvanising, hypnotic You Knew, her singularity bound up in this very statement.

One of Murphy’s greatest gifts has always been her dusky vocal, coaxing any lyric to greater heights, in this she brings to mind the clarifying blue-eyed soul of Dusty Springfield, but while she alludes to many of the greats, there is no imitation. Her voice, steady and decisive, can take us around the softness of CooCool and the joyful abandon of Overpowered and Let Me Know with equal fervour.


Her constant reshaping and revisiting of work suggests a sense that perhaps no song is finite, and no moment in time lasts, and the passage and passing of time is another narrative that she harnesses so well, demanding that we give in to being present, and with her folding in of Balearic beats and Italo-disco at times, the audience crumbles into a happy surrender, with Incapable as its totemic soundtrack.

Happiness is at the core of this performance tonight, a world-weary, hard-won happiness, with her creativity and charisma unbowed and unmatched, as she sings, or perhaps testifies on Murphy’s Law, “I feel my story’s still untold, But I’ll make my own happy ending”, tonight serves as a timely reminder that only she writes her own story – it is a compelling, commanding chronicle.

Siobhán Kane

Siobhán Kane is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in culture