FM104’s The Gig in Aid of ISPCC in The Olympia, Dublin, 13 May 2014
Titans of pop radio FM104 are back in the Olympia Theatre for their seventh annual charity hullabaloo. And they’ve brought a jam packed lineup of taster-sized sets from the more radio friendly side of the Irish music scene along with them. With a whopping seven bands playing it’s a night of speedy turnarounds but all for a great cause as every cent raised is going to the fantastic ISPCC.
Offaly lads Hogan must have pulled the short straw as they’re up first with an unenviable 7.30 start. Keen to impress though this trio make the most of their tidy set. It’s three songs of polished pop-rock backed by the most animated drummer of the night. A little too reliant on backing tracks but enjoyable nonetheless due to their infectiously energetic and passionate performance.
A slow, jammed out bodhrán and slide guitar intro lead us into Hermitage Green’s set. It’s a questionable beginning as nobody is quite sure if they’ve started their set or are still soundchecking. Their trad textured set is lost on most in attendance and the hurried turnaround times aren’t doing them any favours either. An average set overall but certainly a band we’d like to see at their own show.
“The sexiest ginger since Bosco”. Well that’s certainly a unique introduction for Gavin James from our host Bressie. Despite early battles with a noisy crowd Gavin James manages to blow everyone away with an absolute belter of a voice and an endless supply of easy charm. His cover of Coldplay’s recent hit Magic is done with buckets more emotion than Chris Martin’s dry delivery.
Up next are Dingle quintet Walking On Cars. A fine performance by all means but a little too middle of the road for our liking. It’s inoffensive guitar pop that sits perfectly on Top 40 radio, so it’s no surprise that they get a warm reception and some hearty singing along.
A blistering change of pace comes with the arrival of The Minutes.Distorted, buzzsaw guitars replace beige acoustic-led singalongs. This trio sound far bigger and louder than any three piece have the right to. It makes you wonder how they snuck their way onto the bill, but either way we’re delighted that they’re here. Most of the crowd don’t know what to make of either the music or frontman Mark Austin’s dagger stares. Heads do start nodding along during recent single Cherry Bomb, which hints at the possible future crossover appeal of The Minutes.
Eccentric local style-mashers O.R.B. are up next and they waste no time at all getting down to business. Acoustic pop and hip hop isn’t the most likely of pairing but O.R.B. do it with passion and well measured restraint. The rushed turnaround times means another band are left with an unforgiving mix. This means we have a hard time making out any of the rap parts but the Dublin lads are having such a good time on stage that we’re happy to be taken along for the ride. With a support slot coming up for Kanye West in Marley Park this summer and a Mercury Prize for Irish Song of the Year, we have a feeling that O.R.B. won’t be playing venues this small for much longer.
Headliners tonight, Kodaline, get a more generous time allocation than the three to five song sets that precede them. They need it too as guitarist Mark Prendergast is hindered by numerous technical difficulties for the first few songs. You would think that after November’s three-night stint that they’d know The Olympia as well as their own practice space but alas this is not the case.
Overall they’re a more polished and confident band than the last time this reviewer seen them (Longitude 2013 if you must know). Frontman Garrigan has shaken a good chunk of his awkward demeanour and seems to be actually enjoying his time on-stage, which is good given their recent step up to arena headliners.
Kodaline blast through a trimmed set with a mixture of hits and fan favourites. From the first line of set-opener, The Answer, they get an impressive singalong that doesn’t let up until they leave the stage. There’s enough singing along that it makes Garrigan look redundant at times but he’s happy to step back and let the sold out Olympia sing it all back to him.
Highlight of the set comes from last year’s mega-hit All I Want, for which they’re joined by Gavin James. The combination of James taking lead vocals for the second verse and the double barrel live outro sends the crowd into hysterics.
So fair play to FM104 on a job well done. We’ve yet to see a final tally but with a full house we reckon they’re going to have no problem topping last year’s incredible €50,000 for the ISPCC.
Kodaline Photo Gallery
Photos: Mark O’Connor