Bronagh Gallagher at Whelans on Friday June 1st

Review: Alice Goodwin
Photos: Abraham Tarrush 

An enthusiastic crowd descended upon Whelans for the launch of Bronagh Gallagher’s most recent album (the self-titled ‘Bronagh Gallagher’), and expectations were high for the night’s music.

Four piece band Fear of Folk (they kindly supported Tea and Toast) start of the night with their country / folk sound. Pleasant, but predictable, they ultimately lose attention of the audience as each song melts into each other, unchanging and maintaining the same generic country twang throughout. A bit more variance could prove a huge difference.

However, as Bronagh Gallagher takes the stage for her self-proclaimed homecoming gig, she is welcomed with open arms. Joined by her band, she starts the night off with an easy sway, opening with the track ‘Here They Go Again’. As Gallagher bursts into ‘Mexico’, the room is practically set alight. Accompanied by combination of bright bass riffs and strong rhythms, Gallagher makes her soulful testimony of passion, lust and love as she tells the crowd a story of two lovers living in Mexico. ‘Love Will Find You’ details the pains of unrequited love, along with a recount of some of her more obsessive cleaning habits. As she asks the crowd to imagine they’re sitting in a church in Mississippi, the influence at work here becomes clear. Soulful, and dripping with those traditional, dramatic gospel vocal parts recognisable from the southern regions of the USA, it’s almost as if you’re really there.

Another highlight of the evening arises as she eases into ‘Mink & Lama’, a track full of deep, dirty brass riffs, rolling rhythms, and the fiery, passionate vocals of a woman completely absorbed in the story she’s telling. The crowd is there with her one hundred percent, barely making a sound, and clinging on Gallagher’s every word, as she leads us through the winding tale of two lovers separated by death. ‘Fed Up’ – a slightly renovated track from Gallagher’s first album – rouses the crowd into a sea of dancing bodies with its spicy, choppy guitar and serious attitude. Continuing to wind down to the sweet and simple ‘ I’ve been waiting’, we see Gallagher’s softer side, a nice chance to relax and prepare for the most recent single ‘Fool’. This is Gallagher at her most soulful, and watching her at work here, no one can deny that this entire gig and album is a labour of love, for a woman and a band with a passion and it’s infectious. As Gallagher bids farewell to her fans, there’s not a person in the place who isn’t asking for more. It’s in the encore that graces us with her beautiful cover of Carole King’s ‘You’ve got a Friend’, and with every soul singing along with her. It’s a heart-warming way for her to end her Irish tour and album launch.

It’s becoming less often that we have the joy of seeing musicians play for the love of their art, but Bronagh Gallagher and her entire band are a beacon of light. Seeing each and every musician entirely absorbed in the music that they love is a massive joy in itself, and fronted by the powerhouse of soul that is Bronagh Gallagher, I can’t think of a better way I could have spent the evening, and judging from the reaction to her performance, I don’t think many there would have disagreed.

Bronagh Gallagher Photo Gallery

Photos: Abraham Tarrush

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