The Eskies at The Borderline, London 15 February 2018
Soho is an infuriatingly busy place, bursting with tourists, traffic and more overpriced pubs and restaurants than it can handle. Any self-respecting Londoner avoids it like the plague. You can only handle the overcrowding and conflicting sounds and smells if you’re relying on the ultimate coping mechanism of the UK capital: drinking. But on Thursday, it was more than bearable and shying away would have been a mistake. On Thursday night, Soho was glorious and most of all, Irish.
Before The Eskies come on, you quickly notice the pints of Guinness, neatly left next to each instrument. “Ah, where did these come from?” is among the first things lead singer, Ian Birmingham, announces to the audience, as if he’s not used to Guinness following Irishmen everywhere they go. It doesn’t get any more Irish than this; but as soon as they start their contagiously catchy set of songs, you immediately wish you were sipping on a Guinness too, just in case it has the magic powers to make you this talented too.
Opening with When The Storm Came, The Eskies show they reserve the jokes for the on-stage banter; when it comes to music, they don’t joke. A notable element in this song live, as well as their music in general, is that they manage to transcribe the energy and uniqueness despite the lack of the brass section you hear on recording, responsible for many melodic hooks. This is a major mistake many bands make: the temptation to use many layers of instruments on record is dangerous as it makes it so much more difficult to match live. But we didn’t hear anything missing in The Eskies’ set.
Following a half-jokey, half-sarcastic tirade against the recent occurrence of Valentine’s Day and its immediate connection to capitalism (there was a lot of “fuck ‘em” rambling, presumably directed at evil corporations, and if you don’t agree with it, you probably wouldn’t be a fan of the band), The Eskies explain why love sucks in I’d Rather Be Lonely. They demonstrated profound skills in self-irony by calling it “the most morbid song ever written”. Ed Sheeran should have been there to take notes on how to make a love song funny and original.
“There is an Eskies tribute band and they’re better than we are”, says Birmingham. We seriously doubt that as Chin Up Jack comes and goes, leaving the chorus stuck in your head: “It’s a pretty good time to not know what the hell is going on”. The tempo soon slows down with Building Up Walls, shining with lyrics perfectly matching with melody: “Oh you’re building up walls, and my catapult is broken”. Clearly a crowd favourite, Jesus Don’t Save Me speeds things up again and there’s hardly anyone not dancing in the room. The very big songs Fever and Shame bring the evening to a close and we are sad to leave, but ultimately happy to have witnessed such a fun gig.
It’s times like these you wonder why such bands aren’t much bigger than this. It’s not fair for us to be the select few in the world to let The Eskies brighten our gloomy lives. But it’s certain this won’t be the case much longer. Hopefully.