Kodaline at The Sugar Club on October 4th 2012

Not that the BT Young Scientist exhibition isn’t a great gig, but the crowd in the Sugar Club were a lot more engaged than an array of nerdy prepubescent teens glancing around the RDS in search of their next shift. 21 Demands are on stage, a big booking by Irish pop culture standards in 2008.

You’re a Star is probably not up there with the X Factor and American Idol as a powerful taste-making pop machine. It’s grand RTE, you tried, you get a ‘good effort’ stamp. But as we all know, the winner rarely takes it all in this context – just ask Matt Cardle. Jockey David O’Connor beat 21 Demands for first place on the talent competition, and where is he now? Touring hotels, living down the fact that he has the most monotonous Irish name in, er, Ireland. But let’s not judge, You’re A Star may have lied to David, but for 21 Demands, it was a nudge in the right direction.

Fast-forward five years later and we’re in the Sugar Club waiting for 21 Demands, reloaded. Like Take That after Gary Barlow got over himself, three of the lads reformed, refreshing their tween-friendly Busted bravado with not just Matt Cardle-like credibility, but actual direction and a case of just ‘doing them‘. Adding bass player Jason Boland (of every band in Ireland), Kodaline shook off 21 Demands like a snake shedding weighty outer skin.

The Fallen Drakes are on stage when I arrive at a very busy Sugar Club—you know it’s a decent crowd when there’s a queue to get up the stairs. Neutral rock compositions are lauded by the supportive crowd out for them tonight. They’re inoffensive, a lovely warm-up for Kodaline as they shutter around Houricans next door trying to settle the nerves. Tracks such as Desert Night and Last Time provide bubbling riffs and a pleasant soundtrack to the early birds fighting to obtain a seat.

Then there’s Kodaline. I could re-hash the hype; anyone’s fair share of BBC Radio 1 airplay, Grey’s Anatomy promos, the dozens of melancholic YouTube covers, or most importantly, Gary Barlow being a fan. All I Want is a superb single, but as it keeps rising, with each ascent it overshadows what’s below it a little more.

Play my heartstrings like a harp, you guys. Opener Lose Your Mind immediately entraps the bloated audience with uplifting ‘ooohs’ echoed by blinding lights, singer Steve Garrigan diving into the performance like Tom Daley into chlorine. His voice is a fluid collage of his contemporaries—Jeff Buckley, Conor O’Brien, to Bono himself. Harraging a shaker, he quakes off all former assumptions. The band is tight, dropping harmonies only a textured, recorded production could conspire.

But is there anything Garrigan can’t play? He picks up an acoustic guitar during Pray, a lingering stomper, enrapturing the crowd and even shutting up the friends and family of the support acts who’ve taken Kodaline‘s set as an interlude. Delivery here shows the potential to meet at the hierarchic level of the ‘powerful but bland’ Coldplay or Keane, just before wrapping the Sugar Club in a blanket of stretchy sound. Garrigan’s perfectly gooey vocal runs laps like spinning candyfloss from under his floppy blonde fringe.

“Check us out online and stuff”, he whispers as he introduces Roulette, clearly acknowledging and latching on to the newfound hype like a typical Sword’s kid. Ah sure, global airplay and stuff. Grand that, isn’t it?

He’s on the keyboard now, check that off your Garro-instrument-bingo card. We’re slower now, with one backing guitar while drummer Vinny May beats his lap, unable to just not hit something. A faint smoke machine cements the ‘effortless’ cliché, as it really seems like Garrigan omits his notes like stretchy syrup falling from a jug. Chris Martin comparisons aren’t redundant or over inflated in the slightest. There’s less room too echo, sure, but thankfully there’s also slightly less sweat.

Banjo, head-brace accordion, BINGO. Perfect World’s beautiful harmonies liven things up—if just for a while. Then there’s All I Want, the one everyone’s waiting for that rarely lives up to expectations. Like the New Year’s countdown, it’s gone as soon as it’s here. But the lads may as well have been chucking bricks from the stage, the sound of a glass smashing nearby serving only as a crude metaphor for a heart. The Fray’s How To Save A Life may have cemented itself as the U.S. medical drama staple, but Kodaline’s effort makes a hearty attempt. The crowd sings the cathartic lyrics back to the stage, reflecting an ambience of a stadium-swaying anthem, cameras in the air and not a care what you sound like, just capture this shit, now. Lights bleach the Sugar Club, it’s just a prophecy of what we all know is coming next for Kodaline, to say it isn’t to jinx it.

An encore of Brand New Day and All Comes Back to You sends the crowd off with the feeling that they’ve really witnessed something. Whether it’s Boyzone’s first Late Late Show appearance or the whole fucking ‘Killing Bono’ movie, it’s something you’ll relay later in life – but no pressure lads. With a set as short and sweet as that, the producers will ensure you‘ll be the last band found lapsing on the hot surgeon’s table during the season finale.

Kodaline Photo Gallery

Photos: Sean Smyth