by / April 25th, 2014 /

Hamsandwich – Dublin

Eleven years is usually enough time for a band to meet, dream of world dominance, admit mutual resentment and then dissolve. For so many, that decade-long, three-album tenure is all your average guitar group can last but HamsandwicH (the artists formerly known as Ham Sandwich) don’t seem to have got the memo. Clues to this raise their pretty head frequently tonight during a near-capacity Olympia date that surely marks a zenith in the Kells band’s career.

The fledging issues – that name, questions over their eccentricity and whether the painfully small Irish market would sustain them – are nowhere to be seen tonight, only confidence, muscle and bright-coloured plumage. At the centre of the act – joined here by a small string and brass section and a guest-drummer interlude – are front-people Niamh Farrell and Podge McNamee. It is striking how effective a focus point the duo make on stage – she the starry-eyed rock kitten, he the bearded, Bucky-swilling Stratocaster pirate. The beauty, all twirls and strong lungs while the beast scissor-kicks and goons (“I finally put my family in a box,” he remarks hilariously on the Victorian interiors). It’s been this way since 2003 yet still tonight they glance at each other adoringly and grin, as if to say “isn’t this amazing?”.

And it is. Aye, it’s a nifty package presented exceptionally well by the quintet. Rocky enough for the lads (‘Oh Oh’, ‘Keepsake’) sweet enough for the girls (‘Models’, ‘Long Distance’), with the kind of minor falls and major lifts that good pop music obeys. What makes tonight especially potent is that they and their management (surely the unsung heroes of this story) have capitalised on the occasion (Record Store Day/the return of HMV already has musos in ebullient form) by going to town on the production with confetti canons, giant balloons and guest musicians. Therefore, by the time they sign off with a cover of Donna Summer’s ‘I Feel Love’ and anthemic calling card ‘Ants’, the feel-good quotient is near-bursting.

The band now sit at something of a crossroads. If they can keep playing shows like this, and ensure that their strong single factor is present on their mooted August LP, they will cease to be Hang Sangwidge from up the road in the Royal County and put themselves in a position to become a proper musical export. Whatever is to come, for now we all need to start taking them a bit more seriously.