A Monday night in Whelan’s is always going to be a tough ask. A Monday night in November is going to be even tougher, but Daughn Gibson makes a damn fine go of it. Playing to a somewhat reluctant crowd that preferred to hug the periphery of the venue and that could not have numbered any higher than 40 would have knocked the stuffing out of other performers but not Gibson. Striding out on stage in a battle-worn Garth Brooks t-shirt, he implores everyone to move into the middle so he can see them better. Some people oblige, which serves to make it look more like a gig than a town hall gathering.
He is here to play his country music, or so he calls it. It is and it isn’t. It’s fragile and powerful, it’s darkness and light, so far so country. But it’s country music augmented by 21st century technology, with electronic elements bubbling under and sometimes spilling out over the other music. The use of samples and basslines to beef up the songs works brilliantly and adds another layer to his particular brand of genre-smorgasbording American Gothicana.
There are only three people on stage but the sound they create easily belies that. He and his band, tear into “the hits” from 2012 release Me Moan. ‘The Sound of Law’, ‘Phantom Rider’, ‘Mad Ocean’ sound amazing. Clearly a live Gibson is a very different proposition to what he has committed to record. It’s more in your face, more powerful and more vitriolic. In fact his distinctive baritone voice is even more striking in a live setting.
Eventually, and inevitably, he says it’s great to be in Dublin and in Ireland. He’s American, he’s in Ireland, we know what’s coming next, but he turns it on its head and says “since everyone in America is Irish somewhere down the line….i guess it’s great to be home”. Such knowingly self-deprecating comments endear the crowd to him even more. He seems to be enjoying himself and yet, without warning, he and his band launch into the cataclysmic ‘All Hell’.
At the end of it all Gibson seems happy, and you get the feeling that he has nothing left, he has performed the hell out of those songs this evening. He puts everything into making them sound better than they do on record. And it works, by the end of it, a reticent crowd hugging the touchlines of Whelans are up front and in his face. That’s the way he wants it, hell that’s what he told us to do. And who are we to argue? If he can manage to keep ploughing this interesting musical furrow, it won’t be long before he’s playing to bigger crowds. Welcome home Daughn. Welcome home.