Balance and Composure at Fibber Magees, Saturday 11th October 2014

A protest against water charges saw O’Connell Street thronged with people on Saturday evening with estimates of up to 100,000 voicing their displeasure at the Irish government. By nightfall, no evidence of the day’s upheaval remained with O’Connell Street returning to a state of relative peace. Just around the corner though, things were only beginning to heat up with Fibber Magees playing host to Pennsylvania’s Balance and Composure. However, much like the introduction of the controversial water charges, the bands performance left this reviewer feeling somewhat cheated.

With four bands on the bill, it’s The Winter Passing who have the honour of opening the night’s proceedings. A staple of Demented Promotions gigs, they deliver a solid set, which promises bigger and better things will come in 2015. Up next are Milk Teeth, who are similarly impressive. With their boy/girl dynamic and grungy sound the young Bristolians wouldn’t sound out of place on a Sub Pop mixtape; high praise indeed. Making up the undercard are Seahaven. More established then the previous two acts, they draw a larger crowd that are in fine voice throughout their set.  Bouncing between a variety of styles over the course of their set, they make for an intriguing listen. Lead singer Kyle Soto’s voice is an acquired taste though; never has a Californian native sounded so Scottish.

It’s just over a year since Balance and Composure released ‘The Things We Think We’re Missing’, one of the finer alternative albums of 2013. It’s the source of much of tonight’s material with the band opening their set with three of its best songs; Parachutes, Reflections and Lost Your Head. All three were made for a live setting; blistering slices of alt-rock  that ebb and flow between moments of subtle calm and thundering noise. What should make for a fantastic opening salvo though is anything but. A complete lack of energy from the band means the top heavy opening feels strangely underwhelming.

Things do not improve either, the subdued atmosphere spreading to the crowd who, by Fibbers standards, are very passive. The running order of songs does little a help with the band’s slower, more introspective songs falling mid-set which further curtails the flow. It’s such a shame because Balance and Composure are a very good band but their stoic stage presence and complete lack of vigour makes it very hard to warm to their live show. As the set progresses we get the odd moment that breaks the mould. The brooding Tiny Raindrops is one. Singer Jon Simmons delivers a fine vocal performance. Quake, drawn from their debut album, is another moment of quality. Played late in the set it rouses the crowd from their slumber but it’s a case of too little, too late.

This band has been on tour forever and on Saturday night it showed, their lethargic performance a sure sign they need time off the road. With just under twenty dates left on their current European jaunt, it could be a long couple of months for the band. This was certainly missed opportunity though, a fine band having a bad night.