Young Fathers at The Academy, Dublin, 26th March 2015
What does a Mercury Prize get you? £20,000? Sure. A bump in album sales? Usually, yes. A sold out Dublin show? Not on the evidence of tonight’s gig in the Academy. It’s incredible given the gravity of the prize, it makes you think – what do you have to do to sell out a venue these days?
There’s no support act so the crowd waits patiently as the stage is pumped full of dry ice until the lads emerge, one by one, in silence. It’s an uneasy start to proceedings, until they kick off with No Way, the lead-off track from the Mercury winning ‘Dead’.
The triple vocal assault of ‘G’ Hastings, Alloysious Massaquoi and Kayus Bankole is arresting, both on the eyes and ears. Vocal lines, weave, wind and tangle, before emerging in a perfect knot. Occasionally, Hastings turns his back on the crowd to twiddle the knobs on a synth that looks more like a home office set-up. Despite the availability of three mics, Hastings and Bankole opt to share occasionally, provocatively gyrating against eachother.
Queen is Dead features a spine tingling a-cappella part from Bankole, who varies his vocal style from smooth hip-hop to raspy reggae rhymes to high pitched backing vocals. Massaquoi, too, with his syrupy voice can spit when he needs to. Hastings, who is definitely the most miserable looking of the three, is similarly chameleon-like when on the mic. All of which leads to difficulty at times in determining who is singing which part.
Other than Bankole, who occasionally breaks into wild dancing across the stage, there isn’t much movement front of stage, so the eye is naturally drawn to the drumming of Steven Morrison, who, with is upright kit and flailing limbs, cuts a striking figure at the back of the stage. He also programmes the backing tracks, which are used copiously, the only other “live” aspect being synth flourishes.
Meanwhile the woozy Just Another Bullet, smooth but angry War and wonky synth of Get Up keep fans of ‘Dead’ happy. During the latter, Hastings stares out at the crowd demanding “are you gonna just stand there?”. Perhaps out of fear, they obligingly start to move. However no threats are needed for latest single Shame from forthcoming album ‘White Men Are Black Men Too’, and the room immediately begins to bounce. Massaquoi has described the provocatively titled album as “our interpretation of what a pop album should be”, and that’s evident from the lead single. An extended bout of cheering is met with the band’s first, and only, interaction with the crowd: “we’re not finished yet”.
A couple of songs later, ending with I Heard from ‘Tape Two’, and they are finished. The lights immediately come on. It is clear there will be no encore, which in a way suits this contrary band. Something was amiss tonight, however. Perhaps it was the bright lighting in the Academy, which seemed at odds with the dark intensity of the band. Perhaps it was just too much intensity for a Thursday night.