The week’s best rock and pop gigs: From The Darkness to Björk

Other highlights include Go-Betweens’ Robert Forster, Snow Patrol and Other Voices

Björk Björk: promising a “sci-fi pop concert”

Björk Björk: promising a “sci-fi pop concert”



Soda Blonde
Róisín Dubh, Galway
Soda Blonde is a new Irish act that you need to keep tabs on. It comprises former Little Green Cars members Faye O’Rourke, Adam O’Regan, Donagh Seaver O’Leary and Dylan Lynch, whose forte is witchy alt-pop. With cotton-soft vocals, frontwoman O’Rourke puts her all into the songwriting as the group’s sound wraps you up and only lands a sting when necessary. With their debut EP Terrible Hands freshly released, 2020 is going to be a big year for them. LB 


Grand Social, Dublin
Dubliner Aimée is surely marking our cards with the release of her latest ridiculously catchy single Don’t Bother. As a youngster YouTuber she was influenced by the likes of Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera, and as she advanced in years she took note of the sophisticated contemporary pop output of Demi Lovato and Ariana Grande (among others). The intersecting of these singers’ styles and Aimée’s own started last year (via her collaboration, with Mark McCabe, on Over Me), but 2019 has been a pivotal year in getting her individuality established – and Don’t Bother is just the beginning. TCL


Robert Forster
Whelan’s, Dublin
The former Go-Betweens songwriter and singer was in Ireland several months ago, so this is something of a surprisingly swift return. This gig, however, is a much quieter affair that sees Forster present Go-Betweens and solo material (the bulk of which will be from his two most recent albums, 2015’s Songs to Play and this year’s Inferno) acoustically, albeit in the company of violinist and life partner Karin Baeumler. Expect equal parts reverence and revelry from fans and performers alike. TCL

Cabal x AVA with O’Flynn
Dolan’s Warehouse, Limerick
Promoting Irish music, fashion and art is the beating heart of Cabal, the collective who put on regular parties and are long admirers of Belfast’s AVA Festival. This collaborative event marks Cabal’s first time hosting an international act, eclectic London electronic DJ O’Flynn. The line-up is hefty for this one, with Belfast’s Heads banging out the techno and Paul Byrne, the Cabal DJs, Daire O’Shaughnessy and Seán Aherne playing sets in the venue’s different spaces. LB

The Darkness
Cyprus Avenue, Cork; also Tuesday 26, Limelight 2, Belfast; Wednesday 27, Academy, Dublin
“The Darkness: like the mighty mother condor sitting upon a rock egg in a nest of curly hair on the side of a powerful mountain … ” In fairness the UK rock band did actually swoop down 17 years ago and take us by surprise with an ironic take on hair-metal. Oh, how we smirked at (and hummed along to) songs such as I Believe in a Thing Called Love and Growing on Me. Of course, the joke wore as thin as the hair on singer Justin Hawkins’s head, and within a few years the band had broken up. Now? Well, they’re back plugging their recently released concept album, Easter Is Cancelled. Relax. As usual, they’re joking ... All shows are sold out. TCL

Lilla Vargen
McHugh’s Basement, Belfast; also Tuesday 26, Whelan’s Upstairs, Dublin
Co Antrim singer-songwriter Lilla Vargen released one of the year’s best songs last month. Why Wait (and specifically its video, directed by TJ O’Grady Peyton, and which won Best Cinematography at this year’s Kinsale Shark Awards) highlights various breakdowns – personally and societally. The song is taken from her forthcoming EP, We Were Thunder, which is released next week. Between that, these gigs, and ambitious plans for next year, Vargen is odds-on to justifiably increase her commercial reach. TCL


Snow Patrol
Olympia Theatre, Dublin; also Thursday 28/Friday 29, Waterfront, Belfast
Twenty-five years of Snow Patrol may be too much for some people, but let’s cut the Northern Irish/Scottish band some slack – the first 10 years saw the band barely make a living. The remaining 15 have seen them clock up over a billion streams, a handful of platinum albums, an Ivor Novello award and too many nominations to mention. These relatively small Irish shows (all three sold out) plug the band’s latest album, Reworked, on which their best-known songs are revised as a means to highlight their legacy. The album, however, contains three new songs that hint at future creative directions. All change? We’ll see. TCL


An Evening with Ken Stringfellow
The Vintage Room, Workman’s Club, Dublin
Classic power-pop fans will be spoiled rotten tonight with the rare appearance in Ireland of Ken Stringfellow, founding member of The Posies, and a songwriter who has worked with the likes of Big Star, REM, Mercury Rev, Snow Patrol, and Robyn Hitchcock. The Californian has been touting his preferences for guitar pop-rock for over 30 years, and while this evening’s show will highlight some of these, the primary focus will be on Touched, an album released on September 11th, 2001, and regarded as one of his best solo works. As well as playing Touched in its entirety, Stringfellow will also be chatting and telling anecdotes. A gig for genuine fans, hence the intimacy of the venue space. TCL


3Arena, Dublin
There are some tickets still available for Björk’s immensely acclaimed Cornucopia show, her first theatrical production, the concept of which pivots around her 2017 album, Utopia. Of course, theatre has rarely been absent from the Icelandic performer’s outlook, but this time around she described it as her “most elaborate stage concert yet, where the acoustic and digital will shake hands, encouraged by a bespoke team of collaborators”. Further defining it as a “sci-fi pop concert”, there is (as throughout Utopia) an environmental theme running through the show, including a video message by Greta Thunberg. Advance reports of the state-of-the-art production have been hugely positive, which is understandable – there ain’t no show like a Björk show, after all. TCL

The Midnight Disco with Cáit and Bryon Yeates
Yamamori Tengu, Dublin
Following on from their sold-out Halloween event, the Midnight Disco are back to get you all warmed up for winter. Galway act Bryon Yeates, who is now based in Berlin, hasn’t been home for a stint and with recent performances in Berghain and Tresor, playing everything from rave classics to acid house, all with a queer sheen, this gig will be a glorious homecoming. Joining Yeates on the night is the totally beloved Cáit and support comes from Blue Shell. LB

Julia Jacklin
Button Factory, Dublin
(Also Friday 29, Button Factory, Dublin)

When Julia Jacklin played in Dublin this March, she left a roomful of people in awe. Upon its release in February, a number of music reviewers pegged the Australian singer’s second album Crushing as an album that will certainly be ranking high in end-of-year lists. Capturing the rushes and the lows of infatuation and the devastation of heartbreak, her music and her voice gets you right in the feels. Get ready to be moved. LB


Other Voices
Dingle, Co Kerry; also Saturday 30/Sunday 1
Eighteen years later, and still Other Voices continues to nourish. Latterly, the festival has broadened its reach, bringing its wares from Ballina to Berlin, Northern Ireland to Wales, but its spiritual home has always been, and always will be, Dingle. Yet even in such intimate confines, Other Voices has grown. For some years now, it has had integral sidebars such as Ireland’s Edge (politically influenced conversations), Banter (fireside chats mixing pop culture with a wide range of topics) and a Music Trail (this year sponsored by Dingle Gin, and featuring, as per usual, over two dozen new and emerging Irish music acts). With such additional annual treats, Other Voices is more popular than ever, so let’s hope that some of last year’s overcrowding issues have been addressed. Those lucky enough to nab a ticket for the St James’s Church gigs, meanwhile, will get to see, up close and personal, the likes of Jafaris, Whitney, The Murder Capital, Soak, Editors, Joy Crookes, Ye Vagabonds, Arlo Parks, and Angie McMahon. TCL 

Anna Mieke
Canton Caseys (Upstairs), Westmeath
Sharing stages with the likes of This Is the Kit, Rozi Plain, Lisa Hannigan, Lankum, Ye Vagabonds, Loah and Clang Sayne, Wicklow’s Anna Mieke Bishop has been building up steam and experiences over the last few years, which manifested in her stunning 2019 debut album, Idle Mind. Bishop’s music, described as “a deliriously renewable energy source” by Siobhán Long, surges and her live show is no different. The alt-folk musician, singer and songwriter is magnetic on stage, and her sound sticks to your senses. LB


Barry McCormack
Workman’s Club, Dublin
Dubliner Barry McCormack was flying the raw folk flag long before broadsheet newspapers (remember them?) and trend-setting blogs were espousing the likes of Lisa O’Neill, Lankum and many other superb examples. Whether McCormack was before his time or (as we suspect) merely a songwriter whose instinct told him to do what he had to do, he has nonetheless paid the price for such singularity as a writer of songs that are admired by critics and overlooked by the public at large. He is out and about these days in order to plug new album Mean Time, the title of which you can view from various angles, which develops the man’s musical reach while retaining his gifts as a lyricist. TCL


The Grand Social, Dublin
Join Kildare singer and multi-instrumentalist Inni-K (Eithne Ní Chatháin) for the vinyl release party of her 2019 album The Hare & the Line, of which Zara Hedderman wrote in this newspaper: the “dexterity displayed on The Hare and the Line shows an artist evolving, both musically and lyrically”. It is a beautiful tapestry of indie and modern Irish folk music, and Ní Chatháin’s vocals evoke power and calm in equal measures. Support on the night comes from October Fires and Varo. LB

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