We Are Scientists at The Opium Rooms, Dublin 20th October 2016
Come with me, if you will, back to 2006. Dublin was a different place back then. It was a city riding happily along in the wake of the rampant Celtic Tiger, where the only thing surer than the queue outside Café en Seine was that no one knew what the hell an IPA was.
It was a time before the hipster – the metrosexual was still happy along his peacock stride – and there was almost nowhere that played indie-rock music in our Fair City. There was Whelan’s though (Eamonn Doran’s and Fibbers too, but they tended towards a heavier sound). “Old” Whelan’s (as those aged as myself fondly know it) was different to its modern incarnation; smaller, smellier and even more gloriously decrepit.
The setlist never changed from week to week, and same loyal cohort of social misfits made their weekly (or twice weekly) pilgrimage to this holy site. While you were guaranteed the spinning of some I Am The Resurrection, This Charming Man and a couple of Bloc Party tracks to represent the more mainstream indie fair, there was always a couple of tracks from We Are Scientists in the mix; specifically The Great Escape and Nobody Move, No Body Get Hurt.
The latter indeed led many a couple, be they star-crossed lovers or little more than passing ships in the night, to disentangle their body parts, come up for air and sing/chant “My body is your body / I won’t tell anybody / If you want to use my body / Go for it, yeah” at each other before re-embracing.
I mention this not for idle reminiscence nor to apologise to whichever girl I may have done the above to, though I am genuinely repentant. No, it’s more that We Are Scientists in the Opium Rooms (The Village as it was back in those days) felt like a reunion. The same mostly forgotten faces turned up to hear those same songs so indelibly etched in our consciousness.
And when the band walk onto the stage – curiously to the sound of Lionel Ritchie’s Hello – it was like we were seeing them in 2006. This is mostly down to singer/guitarist Keith Murray’s youthful looks. His hair is grey (as it was a decade ago) but his features look younger than ever. He also bounds across the stage as though his body hasn’t given up on him like it does for most in their 30s.
But the show is so much more than nostalgia. Murray and bassist Chris Cain are genuinely funny and have the comedy double act aesthetic when not playing songs. Cain’s talk about structural engineer designed bass amps sound a lot more humorous live than when typed up the next day. Murray’s mocking when a girl gives him a Coors Light, instead of the anticipated Guinness, has the audience in stitches. He does apologise to the girl off-mic too just so there’s no hard feelings.
Their music isn’t too bad either. The opening salvo including This Scene is Dead and Buckle shows that We Are Scientists can still blast out the tunes, with Murray’s finger-work impressive even as he leaps about. And speaking of fingering…
“Let’s not beat about the bush here,” Cain says. “You guys are here cos a long time ago we wrote a good album.” And the band crack into Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt. Cain and Murray seem genuinely shocked at the ferocity of the crowd as they shout back the chorus, but again, for many it’s just like 2006 all over again.
There is an element of truth to what Cain says even if it’s said in jest; it was 2005’s ‘With Love and Squalor’ that got people into We Are Scientists. It’s probably the only reason many of the crowd turned up tonight. Cain and Murray give them plenty more reasons to stay, or indeed come again.
From the wit already discussed, to Murray embracing members of the crowd, to raft of other quality tracks – Chick Lit, Rules Don’t Stop Me, After Hours, Too Late (which ends the show) for example – an evening with We Are Scientists is a very enjoyable place to be.
We Are Scientists may never again be quite as relevant (even if only to a small niche) as they were and we, the crowd, will probably never be that age again. Times have changed and we’ve all grown up. Still, this trip back to 2006 was an endlessly enjoyable one that we’d be happy to take again.