It was always going to be a tough job to follow last year’s exceptional JD Set concert, where a supergroup led by Neil Hannon and comprising Cathy Davey, Richie Egan and Romeo Stoddart strutted through Vampire Weekend’s eponymous debut LP. “Why did no one think of this sooner?”, we all beamed minutes into that night.
Tonight, Jack Daniels looks to continue the, ahem, spirit with another novelty covers gig featuring local heroes in a collaborative framework. The Minutes, Delorentos and We Cut Corners are fresher faces than last year’s old hands, but youthful pizzazz and a songbook of classic Dublin tracks are a good spin on the equation. Put all nine in a rehearsal room for five days, chuck in Paul Noonan and Colm Mac Con Iomaire for special guest duties and the results are bound to as rewarding as last year. Right?
Opening with the blissed-out roar of My Bloody Valentine’s ‘When You Sleep’, the stage is a tapestry of guitars, mics and converse shoes. Bodies come and go, depending on which act’s selection is being played. Delorentos lead an excellent cover of U2’s ‘Out Of Control’ and there’s a kick-ass rendition of Frames anthem ‘Revelate’ as the showcloser. In between, We Cut Corners are joined by Noonan on drums and backing vox for a sublime cover of ‘Stay (Far Away, So Close)’ and get everyone else out for a fiery ‘Mandinka’.
What works less smoothly is the on-stage chat. The Minutes chief Mark Austin can’t utter a sentence without cussing (“So if you don’t fucking know what’s going on we’re fucking playing other people’s fucking songs etc”). Not edgy, not cool, he just sounds annoyed or like he’s had one too many bottles of complimentary Sol. He nearly redeems himself by leading the charge on Lizzy’s ‘The Rocker’ and hitting the best notes out of any of them on ‘Raglan Road’.
If Austin is the self-elected “cocky, sweary one” then Conall Ó Breacháin from We Cut Corners is the “meek but hammy one”. He says helpful things like “this is a song called ‘Stay’ by a band called U2” or “…’Mandinka’ by an artist called Sinead O’Connor”, as if playing to a room of Martians. Elsewhere, he’s getting a tad ‘Mariah Carey’ during his verse of the aforementioned Luke Kelly staple. Delorentos, thankfully, sit somewhere in the middle. They’re polite and brief, and also manage to make ‘I Don’t Like Mondays’ sound like an indie-disco stomper.
By the time ‘Lay Me Down’ comes around, it looks like a benefit concert; everyone is bunched up on stage, sharing mics and finding things to do. By way of encore, each act plays a self-penned song with their new friends (rather than everyone swapping, which would have been cooler), and the results are predictable. ‘Go Easy’ (or ‘Go fucking Easy’ as Austin calls it) is crushed under piles of drums and guitars and The Minutes’ ‘Fleetwood’ sounds, well, no different.
Ok, so tonight didn’t quite scale the heights of last year, but this is ambitious stuff to pull off – there was bound to be the odd slip up. At least they gave it a try.