Enemies at Vicar Street, Dublin, 18 December 2016
2016 has been a challenging year for music fans as the grim reaper roamed the planet taking the great and good such as David Bowie, Prince and Leonard Cohen. Closer to home Irish music fans have witnessed a steady stream of Irish acts call it a day in 2016. A less tragic end of course, but the loss of acts such as Solar Bears, Funeral Suits, Fight Like Apes and Enemies will have a significant impact on the Irish music scene. Tonight is Enemies final curtain call; a chance for one of Ireland’s finest ever alternative acts to go out on their own terms after nine years and three albums.
During the gig Enemies cite Search Party Animal as the embodiment of what Enemies tried to achieve as a band. This represents a public passing of the alternative music baton to the young Dublin five-piece who opened the night’s proceedings with a frantic set of wild riffs and teenage bravado.
We tipped Search Party Animal for great things in our 2016 Plec Picks series. Back then they were known as Bagels; a year and one name change later they have certainly realised some of that potential, in a journey that has seen them take in festivals such as Canadian Music Week and support the likes of All Tvvins.
The sprawling Head High, Feet Firm remains a career highlight and a mission statement for the band who deliver a passionate performance, throwing their bodies around up and down stage equipment with zeal. However, these on stage antics costs them a certain amount of precision in delivery and they’ll have to strike a balance if they are to become a great live band.
Their forthcoming debut album, produced by Enemies’ Eoin Whitfield promises to be a beautiful, hyperactive noise.
Enemies walk on stage for the very last time to the strains of Frank Sinatra’s My Way in the first of many moments of reflection upon their career. Tears will flow later on in the evening, but first Enemies are out to prove they are worth a goodbye in the first place.
Draped in the light of six giant golden age of Hollywood style flashbulbs, the opening Salvo of Itsallwaves and We’ve Been Talking are delivered with aplomb and showcase how multifaceted Enemies are: equally at home as an instrumental act as they are in the more traditional vocal mode – a move most post rock style outfits struggle with.
Enemies were clearly enjoying themselves rocking out in a semi-circle during Nag Champa and there was some comic relief too when they realised that they’d forgotten to bring the setlist on stage with them, before Indian Summer and Unit Shifter showcased their ability to create soaring melodies.
Former member Oisin Trench joined Enemies onstage for Coral Castle, and much to the delight of long-time fans. Enemies would soon be joined on stage by Louise Gaffney (Come On Live Long) for Glow and by Heathers for Nighthawks later on in the set.
But there was no need for gimmicks or special guests, the set’s highlights (like Enemies’ career) occurred when it was just the four of them sculpting melodies back and forth between one another.
2016 has seen the demise of many Irish bands, but while Enemies may not have been the most commercially successful of those groups they may very well prove to be the most influential in the long term. Having helped to foster one of Ireland’s biggest sub-cultures, whatever happens next in Irish post-rock will undoubtedly have Enemies’ DNA all over it. And for that we should all find Love Unlimited for Enemies.