The second leg of HamsandwicH’s stand at the Dublin venue where they perhaps came of age as a headline act can only be described as a night of televisual imagery and action. It’s an evening that brings you back to the ’80s, then to 2011/2012 and at one stage, makes a brief pitstop at the present day. That’s the power of music.
The festivities – which commence earlier than usual for a gig – begin with the sparkling arrival of Pleasure Beach, a a band with a clear penchant for the cinematic songs of the said decade, and who seem to possess a desire to emulate performances reminiscent of The Wedding Singer or late morning VH1 programming. Clouds of pink smoke haze the stage for their entire set, which is somewhat shaky – the band noticeably out of sync during a few of their songs. The forceful tendencies of the band may be to blame for the musical digressions, and after an early error, the lead singer lays out the introductions, “We’re Pleasure Beach, and we always fuck up the second song.” There lies the consistency, but not exactly one to be endeared by.
As the crowd wander into the venue, taking their places before the arrival of the main act, a playlist opens with a hat trick of Eurovision hits including Niamh Kavanagh, ABBA, and Bucks Fizz. In these moments you remember that it’s the night when Europe and Australia(?) come alive with music, and you think about the people nationwide enjoying all the witty remarks Marty Whelan will make that you will read about on Twitter. Midway through their set, HamsandwicH will acknowledge the Eurovision songs that played, and Podge remarks that Paddy Power had been running bets that HamsandwicH will be Ireland’s entry for next year. To be fair, that’s not actually a bad idea. They have perfected the formula to create music that is commercially viable with a fleeting mass appeal.
HamsandwicH’s energetic performance, which is driven by multiple bodies playing various instruments harmoniously, appears to please their fans immensely. Niamh Farrell’s voice is nice to listen to live, and the band are able to move between the face-paced rhythms that they have become famous for, and transition faultlessly to their slower songs. The audience’s elation is most evident in the aftermath of the confetti storm that coincides with the key chain in ‘Models’, one of the songs that catapulted the band to mainstream notoriety in their formative years. Any early inhibitions are lost and dancing becomes dangerously contagious amongst the crowd for the popular singles, ‘Illuminate’, ‘OH-OH’, and ‘Keepsake.’ In between songs, Niamh and Podge are chatty, sometimes remarking on feeling sick and then challenging the other to a dance off, which is immediately denied by Niamh.
The inclusion of a cover is always welcomed at a gig. On this particular occasion, Ham Sandwich indulge their fans with interpretations of Prince’s iconic, ‘When Doves Cry’, and then a thumping rendition of Donna Summer’s seminal, ‘I Feel Love.’ The latter is enjoyable, and it is impossible not to appreciate the mastery of that song in any setting.
The Academy’s strict curfew means that when you leave the venue you are able to make it home in time to catch the results of the Eurovision, and then visualise a glittering and colourfully outfitted Ham Sandwich hopefully doing Ireland proud in the Ukraine in twelve months time.
HamsandwicH photographed for State by Mark Earley.