April 2009: State catches BellX1 stumbling delicately through a short set of intimate classics accompanied only by an acoustic guitar, Lisa Hannigan and the occasional burst of electronica from a well-prepared iPod. Geraghty and Co. wowed a crammed Road Records on Record Store Day with the kind of microphone-free set that had you balancing on the rim of a display cabinet trying not to breath, in case the sound of your inhalation somehow spoiled the beauty of it all.
November 2009: BellX1 play in Ireland for at least the 19th and 20th time this year, including starring at Electric Picnic and opening for U2 at Croke Park. State is distinctly underwhelmed.
Okay, so it’s probably unreasonable to compare an intimate acoustic session with a sold-out headline slot at the Olympia Theatre, but we can’t help feeling that BellX1 have slightly surpassed their quota for the year. That in itself, though, isn’t the problem: clearly there’s still a colossal demand to see this band, and normally State would happily align ourselves at the front of the queue. BellX1’s own awareness of the near-saturation point of their live shows, however, has them heading in a strange direction. Today’s gig was proceeded by a poll on the official website, inviting fans to vote for which two lesser-known -chunes’ should light up the Olympia stage, as well as a promise not to -bore you all with the same old’. The -same old’, it turns out, is exactly what has BellX1 headlining consecutive nights at the Olympia, and exactly what this frosty Friday night was crying out for.
For the opening half an hour, BellX1 stumble through a tuneful but uninspiring selection of older tracks that largely merge together. From the back half of the main hall, the likes of ‘Ribs Of A Broken Umbrella’ and ‘Bad Skin Day’ are outdone by Marc’s astonishing trousers and Paul’s disco-dancefloor strutting. The most rousing moment comes when the band turn into a sharp silhouette against the back wall, and proceed to jump around manically, but there’s a notably busy atmosphere at the bar.
‘Eve Is The Apple Of My Eye’ is the predictable turning point, followed swiftly by a sumptuous rendition of ‘The Great Defector’ that seems to lift the majority of the Olympia from their daze. Suddenly the audience is impassioned, the slow trickle to the exits has stopped and BellX1 is the band everyone came to see. The website-request tracks include an impressive ‘Slowset’ – the opener to a lengthy encore – that’s followed by a tongue in cheek advert for the band’s slightly ludicrous new merchandise, the BellX-Onesie and a mischievous Talking Heads chord or two. There are sparks of magic to be had, but they’re too brief, and leave a full house noticeably disconnected, with State overhearing several punters moaning and drifting into the frosty night early. A shame, as we all know just how good these lads can be.