Áine Cahill at Smock Alley Theatre, Dublin, April 20th 2018
Smock Alley Theatre is a venue more famed for hosting musicals and theatre productions than gigs. You’ll find no rowdy smoking areas or sticky floors here; the atmosphere in the amphitheatre-like room is reserved. Hushed whispers replace the usual shouts and squeals in anticipation of the show beginning at a music venue.
Áine Cahill takes to the stage promptly at 9pm, accompanied by three band members dressed cohesively in a uniform of black. Before addressing her audience, Cahill launches into an acapella version of Nancy Sinatra’s Bang Bang and a chilling silence ensues. Opening with an acapella song is a smart choice, it showcases the most salient feature of Cahill’s artistry – her voice. It has the ability to weave and leap between octaves effortlessly with a rich tone that has merited her comparisons to Adele. Sinatra has clearly also clearly been an influence.
Once Cahill speaks, the spell is lifted; the 23-year old Cavan native speaks in a thick, rural accent and has a tough, take-no-shit attitude. Before starting Blood Diamond, she explains that the song was written about materialism and how “all the bad bitches get everything they want, and us good girls get nothing”. The singer previously cited Lana Del Rey and Marina and The Diamonds amongst her key influences, and her own songs similarly possesses a dark undertone, “Blood diamonds are my best friends/I’m keeping them forever, they’re with me ’til the end”.
In between songs, Cahill is humorous, describing how English crowds are so different to those in Ireland. Having recently signed with Warner Music, she has been spending a lot of time in the UK, and homesickness has lent itself to influence many songs. Explaining how much she misses home when she is away is one of the few moments that Cahill lowers her tough exterior; she is briefly vulnerable and raw, and the ensuing songs are faithful to this sentiment.
Plastic is a notable highlight of the set, with lush soundscapes and synth lines that rise and fall in all the right places. BIMM Dublin has produced some of Ireland’s best musicians over the past few years, with all three members of Cahill’s band hailing from the music college. Their proficiency in their instruments certainly contributes to the polished and slick quality of the set.
Before Cahill treats the audience to a new song Blue Valentine, she provides an anecdote about its writing process, “I was in a writing session and I really wanted to write a song about blue mould. Thank god we changed it to Valentine!” she laughs. Several covers feature in the set, including mash up of Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance and Lana Del Rey’s Young And Beautiful, “we call this Bad And Beautiful”, as well as a rendition of Billie Eilish’s Bellyache. Her appreciation of other artists is evident, she gushes over and praises each of them before she starts each cover.
Saving the best until last, Cahill ends the set with, arguably, the song that kick-started it all, Black Dahlia. Like many songs in her discography, the song is worthy of a James Bond soundtrack with dark undercurrents and cynicism about the pitfalls of fame “I wanted fame like Marilyn… I was living in Hollywood, then some things turned upside down, reached the top, then I hit the ground”.
Consistent with her no bells and whistles attitude, Cahill ends the set promptly at 9.50pm by thanking her band as well as her audience before exiting the stage in typical nonchalant fashion. Cries for ‘one more tune’ are made in vain.
It is clear from Áine Cahill’s sold out show in Smock Alley Theatre that she is one of Ireland’s most promising exports into the national music industry. It is a rarity to witness a musician who is so sure of themselves and what they stand for at such a young age, and it is heartening that we can claim her as one of our own.