Peter Crawley reviews the Frames in Dublin Castle, Tony Clayton-Lea reviews Ikara Colt in Whelan's and Gerry Colgan reviews Play the Piano Drunk in Andrew's Lane Studio.
The Frames Dublin Castle/Peter Crawley:
Frames may not play by the book, but the book wasn't written with the Frames in mind. In a triumphant hometown gig in the Heineken Green Energy Festival, Glen Hansard dismissed the instructions of the "rock star textbook": keep your distance and don't engage with the audience. "It's great to play in front of people who are independently minded," cooed Hansard.
Few other bands could make an open-air concert feel like a jam in your living room. Continuing to shred the industry manual during a set crammed with reason and resonance, Hansard received a letter, flung by a fan (air-mail?), as the mantra of God Bless Mom rang out. He reciprocated by throwing the sender his stage pass. Later, Hansard interrupted a blistering cover of The Pixies' Debaser, to broadcast a message from his mum, summoning his errant younger siblings to the stage.
Meanwhile, songs came from the heart and were performed with passion. Hansard's threadbare telecaster must have seen its share of hard times over the past decade, but its chiming toll reflects the band's inextinguishable optimism. Ample lyrical game play, a Frames favourite, bled Fighting on the Stairs into Tiffany's I Think We're Alone Now, where nothing other than a common key and hair-colour seemed to prompt the inclusion.
Tenser moments arrived in an impassioned Angel at My Table, its shuddering vocals urging David Odlum's guitar into dissonant alto. Relieved immediately by a solo acoustic The Blood, where Hansard's falsetto emulated a violin line, harmony and discord finally fused in the throaty prayer of Revelate. Colm MacConlomaire's frenetic bow resolved the tension with a searing violin solo. The dreamy new single Headlong followed a self-deflating and delicate Disappointed. With several encores and lengthy closing jams, the one thing they lacked was a textbook finish. But thankfully the Frames have always managed to avoid those.
- Peter Crawley
Ikara Colt/Parkinsons Whelan's, Dublin
UK rock bands failed to attract little more than stray onlookers at what was, at very least, an interesting sidebar to the Heineken Green Energy Festival. Yet interesting sidebar it remained, for neither Ikara Colt nor The Parkinsons managed to muster anything above cursory glances and bemused idiot dancing.
The Parkinsons' début mini album, A Long Way To Nowhere, is a facsimile of 1977 punk - albeit sadly more Sham 69 and The Damned than The Clash or Sex Pistols - shouty, sloganeering song titles delivered with all the panache of mongrels snarling at the leash. Live, it's a double-your-money scenario with a side-order of scissor-kicks, sweaty bodies, male bonding and an intriguing insight into the Fight Club theory of how some men express their emotional side by thumping each other. Songs include I Don't Know What's Right Anymore and There's Nobody In My Life, and they finish by smearing a banana over the glistening torso of the lead singer. How outrageous, I'm sure you'll agree, and so much better for the skin than self-immolation.
Ikara Colt were slightly more rooted, an occasional five-piece that mixed shades of The Fall (bad) with touches of Sex Pistols (good). This lot kept their tops on - you could see the female guitarist visibly breathe a sigh of relief - but still managed to whip up a storm in a teacup with mostly witty guitar thrashings and riffs. Staggered rhythms paved the way for more textured material, which is an approach The Parkinsons could learn from.
Overall? We've heard worse, but by God we've heard better, too. Nice to see punk rock back in action, though - you never know, it might just catch on.
- Tony Clayton-Lea
Play the Piano Drunk Andrews Lane Studio, Dublin
Whitty's new play is based on the life and works of Charles Bukowski, and some knowledge of the man is required in order to form a perspective on its merits. He was an American writer of the kind we used to call a hippy, a drop-out anarchist who died in 1994 at the age of 73. Given his lifelong addiction to alcohol, women and gambling, it's a wonder he lasted so long.
In this fictionalised version, we meet Henry - the Bukowski character - waking up to a monumental hangover, and musing about his life. He had unloving, even threatening parents, German immigrants who brought some harsh and self-serving values with them. Henry was sent to a rich kids' school, where he was endlessly patronised. He developed a severe case of acne, quit school and began to drink.
Leaving home to travel, he soon discovered that slavery had not been abolished in the US, merely extended to everyone. Soon he quit work too, and began his long career of writing, sustained by a daily grind of drink and debauchery. Although he liked women, he treated them badly. He wrote some 45 books of poetry, novels and prose during his roller-coaster career.
This relatively short play does little to argue Bukowski's merits as a creative writer. It does, in Jon Whitty's Henry, develop an interesting persona, part victim of his nurturing, part original thinker who casts a bleak eye on life. His fellow actors - Peadar Donohoe (also director), Christine Horgan, and Mary Mooney - are entrusted with numerous sketches, really background material. Slight but interesting.
- Gerry Colgan