Review of The Futureheads at Whelan’s: September 7th 2012

Words: Vanessa Monaghan
Photos: Luis Faustino

Heading into the Whelan’s it seemed like it was going to be a quiet night. This is especially hard for an opening act, tonight Moscow Metro were opening for The Futureheads. Despite the sparse crowd, the Limerick band handled themselves well on stage, frontman Barry McNulty giving enough welly that they could have been performing in front of ten thousand. Their anthemic indie set was topped off with ‘Spirit of a City’, a whopper of a tune. If they keep coming up with stuff like this, you’ll be hearing about them for a long while to come.

Out of nowhere, in the space of five minutes, floor space is at a premium. This is no ordinary indie rock show. Following on from the release of their current album, ‘Rant’, a collection of a capella renditions, this is The Futureheads – a capella and acoustic. As Sunderland’s finest make their way to the stage, they are already setting the scene for the evening, laughs and self-deprecating humour means the band already have the audience on side. The opening song of the night, a cover of Richard Thompson’s ‘Beeswing’, gives a good representation of what’s on offer tonight. Great harmonies, rhythm and cohesion within the band.

The Futureheads are going full-out with the a capella and acoustic vibe. Their stage says it all, a couple of guitars, a cello, a mandolin, acoustic bass and half a drum kit. On what seems like the hottest day in September even Jaff mentions that this will be the ‘first time ever a cello is played in a sauna’. Yes, it’s hot.

Staples of The Futureheads’ back catalogue are given the ‘A & A’ treatment. ‘Hard to Bear‘ and ‘Decent Days and Nights‘ keeps the diehards happy. Considering this musical approach, ‘News and Tributes‘, about the Munich aircrash in 1958, seems even more poignant. It’s when they transform a song like Sparks ‘This is The No. 1 Song In Heaven‘ or Black Eyed Peas ‘Meet Me Halfway‘ that this becomes extra special.

Many folk songs easily lend themselves to ‘A & A’ but the arrangement of these show how much work goes on throughout the show, despite all the laughs. That’s what immediately makes The Futureheads an accessible band, even if you never heard of them before. The banter between themselves onstage and with the audience, makes you feel like they’re just one of your mates.

Instruments played on stage change, from none at all to drummer David Hyde, playing drums, acoustic bass and singing all at once. The party is in full swing, then a string breaks on Barry Hyde’s guitar. Then comes words your scribe has never heard from a band with the history of that of The Futureheads. Barry asks if anyone has a ‘B string’ as he doesn’t have any spares. A few muddled minutes follow with the band seemingly changing their set list to this adjustment. The support band offer their guitar before Ross Millard reminds Barry that they are there to do it a capella anyway. This can happen anyone but the delay meant a loss of momentum for the band and it took a few songs to get the audience back to the level the already were at.

Despite this, it’s not what the night should be remembered for. Witty banter, jokes galore and audience participation from finger clicks to getting the ladies and the gents to sing different notes, make this one to remember. The audience ‘McIntyre’ response and the drinking tale of ‘The Old Dun Cow’ shows The Futureheads have beautifully melded contemporary indie and pop songs alongside traditional English folk songs. Add their version of the old shanty ‘Hanging Johnny’ and this shows the timelessness of the evening. They couldn’t finish without ‘Hounds of Love’ and this is a prefect ending to the evening.

This was a really enjoyable evening, with the witty banter being as important to the show as the music was. This will definitely make me catch The Futureheads again. The question is, will you?

The Futureheads Photo Gallery

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