Marsicans, Upstairs at Whelan’s on Friday September 7th 2018

Marsicans made their Irish live debut Upstairs in Whelan’s this weekend with a colourful performance. The Leeds quartet aren’t easy to pin down. They’re much heavier live than their recorded output would suggest – never a bad thing in our estimation. They bounce joyfully from tropical pop, to radio-friendly ballads to straight up indie rock.

They have an infectious stage presence; despite having just played to large crowds at Reading and Leeds festivals they are clearly equally as happy to play a small club show. You get the feeling that one fan is just as important as 500 to these guys and that they relish the challenge of sending whoever sees them home with the impetus to tell their friends to go to the next show.

Dressed in this season’s Grandfather chic trousers and colourful shirts which emphasise their non-stop movements on stage, the quartet lash through their set leaving little time for platitudes – though they promise to “come back”- happy to leave their music do the talking for them. And well they should, their four-part harmonies are accomplished throughout and each member is equally adept on their chosen instrument(s).

Frontman James Newbigging is armed with a daring canary yellow Jaguar – you need to be foolhardy or good to go on stage with such a beast as your weapon of choice. Thankfully it’s the latter, as he displays considerable skill and dexterity throughout on both guitar and later bass. The same can be said of Rob Brander (Bass, guitar keys, vox) whose bass in particular motors much of the evening along.

The sugary sugar rush of Swimming is an early highlight thanks to its earworm chorus melody; while Too Good, their biggest hit to date ticks the daytime radio box with aplomb. Of the slower moments, Freya is undoubtedly the highlight, showcasing Newbingging’s voice with in a mostly gentle ballad about his unborn niece – think comeback Take That.

The main issue facing Marsicans currently is that they have somewhat of an identity crisis, in that they sometimes try to throw the kitchen sink at songs, creating tracks trying to incorporate too many elements. For this reason they will divide opinion.

Marsicans are definitely at their best when they condense less musical influences into a track. It’s no coincidence then that Pop-Ups (Sunny At The Weekend), a simple, but perfectly weighted indie rock song is the highlight of their set. And in this regards it’s noticeable that the newer songs are definitely a lot less busy than their predecessors.

Marsicans have a lot going for them and they are a lot better musicians than most of the people plying their trade in similar acts around today. They just need to get the balance between what’s fun for them to play and what’s enjoyable to listen to to swing slightly – if they can do that, they are potentially a band with mass appeal.

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