Heathers at Leopardstown, Dublin, 19th July 2014
Dublin sisters Ellie and Louise Macnamara caught the nation’s attention in 2010, when their song Remember When became the soundtrack to the ‘Discover Ireland’ national tourism campaign, pulling their first release into the charts and kick-starting their career.
Now with two albums to their name, Heathers are arguably a reference point for alternative Irish pop. We braved the harrowing sunshine and insufferable warm breeze at Leopardstown Racecourse to check out their set as part of the Bulmers Live at Leopardstown summer series of gigs.
The pair begin with lively opener Circular Road and dive straight into recent single Forget Me Knots, drawing a crowd over towards the stage. It’s quite an odd set-up for the event, with the band battling for the punters’ attention while the last of the day’s races are run, and the World Cup is shown inside the bars. Nevertheless, they seem unphased by the commotion and are focused on their set.
Right from the start, the girls’ winding harmonies are flawlessly in sync. Their voices are so inherently similar, and yet there is just enough tonal difference between them to create something unparalleled, certainly in Ireland today. The focus for the evening is thankfully on the sisters’ vocals and Louise’s acoustic guitar, with some unobtrusive accompaniment on drums, electric guitar, and piano.
Tracks from second album Kingdom make use of these additional instruments, filling out the sound to give a fuller alt-pop feel. In particular, Waiter packs even more power in a live setting, taking on an anthemic quality that makes you question why it never charted. The first album tracks are a more acoustic affair, which gives a nice balance to the setlist. Remember When makes its appearance halfway through the set, with the duo seeming to appreciate its role in their success to date without making it the pinnacle of their live show- “You might recognise this one…” jokes Ellie as they begin.
The performance maintains such a relaxed atmosphere throughout the evening, which spills over into the crowd. Light banter is constantly bouncing between the two girls, who are so clearly at home on stage. They confess to being huge Lana Del Rey fans before launching into their stunning cover of Summertime Sadness. Starting off quite striped back, their version builds and builds to finish with the full weight of drums and piano behind them by the end. Anyone that didn’t know the song would surely think the two penned it themselves – even making the original seem one-dimensional by comparison.
Rounding the night off with a few more second album songs, Heathers finish their official set with the powerful Gather Up, before making a quick return for encore Find A Way. Though these songs seem to have more commercial appeal than earlier ones, they are sometimes a bit too polished, leaving less room for the Dublin pair’s raw talent to shine through.
While they can definitely put on a captivating live show, there is still something kept in reserve. To really reach their potential Heathers would do better to either commit to their modern alt-pop sound, or revert altogether to their acoustic beginnings.
Heathers Photo Gallery
Photos: Shaun Neary