Unknown Mortal Orchestra at Whelan’s, Dublin, Saturday 26th September 2015
Unknown Mortal Orchestra is the brainchild of New Zealander Ruban Neilson, a man who has always had a retro soul. His demo Ffunny Ffriends first garnered interest because of it’s vintage production. It was funny then how his breakthrough single Can’t Keep Checking My Phone was a much more modern affair. As the anticipation built before the band appeared on stage, most of the crowd resorted to checking their phones, someone even managed to stream the Wales vs England Rugby World Cup game. Suffice to say however, once the band came on stage all eyes were on them.
Neilson has often citied Jimi Hendrix as a major influence and he even tunes his guitar to E-flat like Henrdrix. This classic rock vibe was very apparent as within the first few songs, Neilson pulled out a fiery guitar solo while drummer Riley Geare busted out his inner John Bonham. These early displays of musicianship really set the tone for the gig and showed a band that are really in tune with each other.
Like Acid Rain kicked things off nicely and, as with most UMO songs, the groove was a central component. The crowd received both their older and newer material equally well, which made it easier for the band to dip into their repertoire. Early set favourites included Ur Life One Night and The World Is Crowded from their superb third album ‘Multi-Love’.
It was a set filled with variety as the soul-inspired ballads acted as respite between the funk and R&B influenced floor fillers. The crowd were on their side the whole time but it did take a while until they were fully involved and not just spectators. The song that really set things off was Stage or Screen, as Neilson put down the guitar and got in amongst it stage diving into the sea of rabid fans hooked on his every word.
From that moment on the dynamic of an intimate venue like Whelan’s was apparent. The ovations after each song were that bit louder, which the band were taken aback by. An excellent rendition of that original demo Ffunny Ffriends repaid the most loyal of fans who greeted it like it was written about them.
By the time they came on stage for their two song encore they were treated like royalty, as Neilson shook the hands of the boisterous fans in the front row. The crown jewel and closer of the set was, of course, the disco infiltrator Can’t Keep Checking My Phone. It was the perfect way to send the fans on their way on a Saturday night, some even thought they were back in Stradbally at Electric Picnic as they got on top of each others shoulders…. and hey who’s to say they weren’t?