Róisín Murphy in The Olympia Theatre, Dublin, on February 11th 2015
The first thing that hits you as you step across the threshold and squeeze past the line for the merch booth stretching to the front door; down past the cloakroom line that snakes back to the entrance to the main room; down further again past the line that ascends the steps to the women’s toilets, is that The Olympia is fucking buzzing. That eclectic string of bodies forms a breadcrumb trail, a single file of anticipation that suddenly opens into a party room that’s about to be commandeered in a blaze of colour and ear-blitzing beats.
Tonight is Róisín Murphy’s first Irish headline show in eight years, coinciding with her first record in as many with ‘Hairless Toys’, and the sense of expectation is palpable as Mother DJs get things moving in the run up. The former Moloko frontwoman has released just three records in a two decade solo career, more critically hailed than commercially, but her stature as something of a club/fashion icon seems undisputed. Tonight’s gapless, chock-full concoction blends the synthetic sounds with warm organics, with Murphy’s vocal performance leading the highs and exploring the low ends, from a conspiratorial whisper to a startling shout.
As Mother DJs set merges with the headliner’s, the large backdrop screens flare into life, with Murphy singing into the camera, appearing from the side of stage with her back to the crowd. Her guitarist films, she sings, and one simple glance over the shoulder kicks things off; an unrelenting blend of Italo disco and pop, jazz and house, and a fascinating array of costume changes and innovations.
Moloko’s Tight Sweater, with the singer enveloped in a massive, twisted red garment, moves from dark electro to the deep bass of Overpowered. Murphy leaves the band to tie the threads together, remerging in a black wig and holding two pieces of a mask – a rudimentary face – over her own before both mask and wig are tossed aside and the beats take over. Again, glitchy frenetic samples and drums meld into a more solid beat as she exits before Gone Fishing, reappearing cocooned in a black bubble like…thing.
“Did you know I was Irish?” she laughs – her roots a recurring theme tonight – before a more straight-ahead, vocally-centred performance of Unputdownable. They’re a rambunctious lot, the crowd packed into The Olympia tonight, though, and this tenderer, musically reined in number – by tonight’s standards, at least – just about snatches supremacy over the chattering heads. It’s not long before it’s back to the business of aural assault, and Murphy dons a tripartite face mask, two papier mâché faces glaring out either side of hers as the song knits into a fantastic, elongated Evil Eyes.
Ancora Tu is another instance where the vocals take precedence over the music behind them. Murphy becomes a flurry of colour as she swirls a red, oversized feather-like affair around her opened white shawl and a disco-heavy Jealousy kicks the doors down. Exploitation segues into a raved-up take on Moloko’s Sing It Back, and the band drive it home on a darkened stage as she departs, a four on the floor bass beat that’s gradually sprinkled with chiming synth notes and assembled into an electro floor-destroyer.
It seems that with Murphy’s departure, this has suddenly become the aftershow party – then you remember the curfew, and the city, and that you’re not ensconced under the stars at Body & Soul or in some 24 hour club in Berlin. Christ, do we really have to go home? Well, we don’t have to go home, but we can’t stay here, and the funk disco of Pure Pleasure Seeker – the singer a tasselled, swaying bundle of colour and sparkle – takes the “I want pleasure” refrain, and the set, to its natural crescendo. Pleasure seekers are advised: Róisín Murphy’s is a performance you don’t want to miss.