You may not know Fred but the chances are you will be familiar with one, if not more, of their songs. Over the past year they have become a firm fixture on Irish radio with a series of singles off third album Go God Go that have seen them take their suitably off-kilter Cork roots and polish them up into the brightest of pop music. Why then do they find themselves playing the basement of a larger venue that has played host to many of their contemporaries. It’s hard to understand but somewhere along the line something is getting lost, at home at any rate. In Canada the band are big news (they have even brought Spiral Beach over to support them on this tour) and so we have, if not a David Gray scenario, a definitely unequal situation.
Not that this has left the band downhearted, not even with lead singer Joe having returned from the first part of Ireland’s dismal French experience at Croke Park. Their set is peppered with one liners and off the cuff quips but they are a world away from the dance move pulling, humorous video making Fred that we have come to know. It may be a wise move, abandoning thoughts of a novelty aspect and focusing more attention on their songs. But it’s these songs that sometimes struggle to shine, especially in comparison to their recorded versions, possibly thanks to the venue’s less than stunning sound system. The likes of -Good One’ and -Running’ are built to sparkle, not plod. They don’t always help themselves either, killing what atmosphere they’ve managed to build with a pointless and not particularly good cover of -Life On Mars’.
Eventually it does all manage to fall into place, though – thanks to a combination of their undoubted charm and the fact that their material is so strong. The oddness of their earlier work is definitely subsiding (-Four Chords & The Truth’ sounding oddly out of place now) but they are still able to throw the odd curveball buried amongst of catchy choruses and sweet harmonies. There second cover of the night, Springsteen’s ‘Hungry Heart’ succeeds where their first failed – not because it is particularly well played but because it is presented with a sense of fun and joi de vivre that sums them up perfectly, almost as much as the euphoric closer ‘Skyscrapers’, their best song to date and a pointer that they can only get better. Here’s hoping though that the rest of the world, or Ireland at least, starts to catch up. It would be a travesty if Fred became another one that got away.
Photos: Kieran Frost