The beer taps have been draped in black covers and the spirits bottles replaced with overpriced candy, while the back end of The Academy is populated entirely by middle-aged folk sighing, giggling amongst themselves and yawning profusely. At the front, meanwhile, semi gender-segregated dancing is punctuated by random, ear-threatening screaming. Yes, State feels every bit like we’ve unwittingly wondering into an underage disco.
Boyce Avenue are much like a very slightly rocked-up boy band. They’ve taken the typical pretty boy look, complete with stools and matching male model haircuts (to be fair they are all brothers, so the -matching’ part may not be intentional) and perform in a similar mould: predictable, sappy and about as rare as an American without a passport.
All of this, though, we could let slide – style and all – if Boyce Avenue actually came across like they were anything other than a high-grade karaoke act. I think most of us would have an (slightly) increased level of respect for any boy band that actually wrote their own music, especially if they did it well, but Boyce Avenue’s strategy seems to be to hide their own stuff in amongst as many covers as they can possible mash into a set list. While there’s one heart-warming ballad about a friend’s wife who committed suicide (a track the band look close to tears singing), the rest of the set consists of (we’re being generous here) 60-70% cover songs. Boyce Avenue’s own music is drowned out by average-at-best renditions of the most popular works of Oasis, The Fray, One Republic and other indie-pop and R&B stalwarts.
It’s not that Boyce Avenue can’t sing (though in truth their voices are nothing special either), more that their covers lack any originality of note, being simple straight up, Edam-ish covers of exactly what you’ve already heard a few too many times on the radio. When State leaves well before the expected encore (Train’s ‘Drops of Jupiter’ is our guess, based on the MySpace page’¦), a couple are standing outside and scanning the listings to work out who the latest R&B track is by, assuming a big name is strumming away inside. Oddly enough, Boyce Avenue rarely credit their cover songs, perhaps hoping that the assembled youngsters will assume the classic are their own original efforts?
It’s difficult to see the appeal of such a band. They’d play a decent role as a wedding act or pub circuit musician, and might even be entertaining for a cheese-fest in temple bar, but to be headlining the Academy – and selling a good few tickets, too – is frankly laughable, and can only be the product of the increasing influence of televised cover-song fests on young music culture. An hour and a half set with perhaps five original songs is akin to a live version of X-Factor, which, perhaps, is the appeal. Frankly the wannabes who populate that particular show year on year are more original and entertaining, and we’d be better off on the couch watching re-runs.
Photos by Abraham Tarrush.