Heathers are a rare thing; a genuine deserved success. To the uninitiated the twins from Dublin may seem to have been thrown into the public eye almost overnight but for many people, including many of the fans in Whelan’s tonight, their success has been a slow, gradual rise beginning almost three years ago. After much touring in America, every summer since they started as they point out tonight, the attention they have garnered across the water finally seems to have been mirrored here.
Tonight Louise and Ellie MacNamara have an adoring crowd at their feet and Whelan’s is, to put it eloquently, wedged. Every single person in the audience seems to know the words to the opener, ‘Remember When’, the tangled ode to love and escapism that is currently sound-tracking those Discover Ireland ads. Setting a high standard from the off, the girls never falter. Their voices are stronger than ever and they continuously add more complex harmonies to the songs from their debut, Here, Not There. The crowd are with them all the way and particular highlights include ‘Hush Hush’, ‘Moose’ and the almost militant ‘Fire Ants’.
The set is peppered with covers; one album is not enough to make a headline set after all, and versions of songs by Mountain Goats and former touring partners Ghost Mice mix easily with the set, each rendered in their own unique style. The outstanding cover though is Beyonce’s ‘Halo’ as the girls restore the song’s natural beauty and rescue it from a haze over-produced, over-sung blandness.
More impressive than the huge crowd, more important than the songs from the debut and more vital than the quirky covers is the sheer strength of the new songs played tonight. The new songs are more direct and more confident than those on their debut. Where the lyrics on Here, Not There seem to centre on escapism (to be expected given it was written while preparing for the Leaving Cert.), the new songs are more sure of themselves and their place in the world. The music is bigger and bolder without losing any of the charm so inherent in their success so far. This fact seems to mark tonight as an interesting point in their careers, balanced carefully between savouring the successes already achieved and pointing the way to an even better future, seeming to say ‘What we’ve done so far is great, but look where we’re going now’. If the crowd is willing to follow then the possibilities open to these two are endless.
Photo: Kieran Frost