It’s a dark, dreary evening in Cork and the long road leading to the Marquee is covered in sullen looking parents and teenagers scrambling to avoid the rain. Once inside the tent, the support arrives en-queue with our arrival. Having escaped the gloominess outside, we’re eager to hear something to lift the spirits. Not so lucky I’m afraid. Judging by the nameless man singing heartfelt ballads, there’s going to be a lot of heartbroken teenagers in Cork tonight.
It’s hard to be charismatic, sitting on a fold out chair faced away from your audience but even when he forays to the front of the stage, the singer forgets to introduce himself. That being said, his voice is compelling and powerful; his growls rumbling up through your boots and catching in your throat. Having mentioned his EP, A Closeness we Google him, to at least prove he was there. It’s Dermot Kennedy for those interested and fans of Ben Howard or Conor Oberst will probably enjoy his sound.
Arriving at 9pm, it’s a late start for the main act but that doesn’t dampen the anticipation of this teenage army, packed into the front of the stage. The early EPs, As We, Fly South (2013) and Hand in Hand (2014) still contain a fair proportion of what we hear on the radio today. ‘Always Be With You’, ‘Tick Tock’ and ‘Don’t Mind Me’ all appear early in the set. The last time we saw Sheehy and his cohorts in Cork was a sold out New Year’s gig in Cyprus Avenue, the only decoration being some old filament light bulbs. Now the band stand atop a huge LED display that cycles through animations.
The band has few words aside from thanks but the singer takes a moment to ask us to ‘look after each other and to never stop dreaming’, an endearing but cheesy moment before launching into ‘Nothing’s Impossible’.
‘Coldest Water’ is the first hint at new music, it offers some more depth to WOC’s sound – drafting in some synth and percussion samples, it stands out from the old material. Not long after, ‘Pa’ as he’s affectionately known, thanks the crowd for their patience referring to the lack of new material since their debut. We agree if there’s anything to critique its output. One of our first encounters was Indiependence 2014, and although the set list has expanded since the album’s release, it remains largely the same three years later.
Having debuted a new song in Kilmainham two nights before, Sheehy states we’re the first people in the world to hear the next (unnamed) song – I’ll take him at his word on that one. It follows the same formula as the other new track but makes far better use of his patented falsetto.
The entire band has found new strengths however none more noticeable than the unshakeable rhythm of drummer, Evan Hadnett and accompanying vocals of Sorcha Durham. The encore is a strong one, saving the big guns for the finale. One after the other, the old favourites that gained them worldwide attention play out: ‘Two Stones’, ‘Hand in Hand’, ‘Catch Me If You Can’ and 2016’s surprise single that the band originally didn’t want to release… ‘Speeding Cars’.