“Unfortunately they can’t be with us tonight….” It’s the Choice Music Prize’s tenth birthday but it’s not quite the party it might have been. As host Paul McLoone points out, the fact that so many of tonight’s nominees are off being successful round the world is something to celebrate yet it not only means that the live event needs something of a rethink but also says a good deal about the overwhelmingly mainstream nature of this year’s list.
To plug the gaps, the Meteor Song Of The Year section receives greater attention – which means that Kormac and his Big Band get to open the show and at least receive a slice of the spotlight that his excellent Doorsteps album deserved. His two song salvo (including an appearance from Vyvienne Long) gets us underway nicely with a mixture of beats, brass and bounce. A great start but sadly the last chance we’ll get to see anything this innovative, or indeed anyone of a certain gender fronting an act, tonight.
If you’re looking for macho trouble, you’ve come to the right place as The Minutes are strutting and gobbing their way onto the stage. Fresh (if that’s the right word) from a European tour they’re certainly in prime live form and ready to shake up the early evening stupor. At times it crosses the line from showmanship into rock ‘n’ roll parody but they’ve at least tried to fire the place up. In contrast, Little Hours bring us right down again. Nice enough as it is, their acoustic set merely gives an excuse for the chatter to rise again.
The evening needs a lift and The Script winning Song of the Year isn’t going to do it, so thank heavens for The Riptide Movement. Not always particularly our cup of tea, they fit the bill nicely here. Bolstering their sound with brass and five backing singers, there’s even an audience sing-along during ‘All Works Out’. We Cut Corners inherit this increased atmosphere yet require a little more attention, especially when they start with a gorgeous, string aided, version of ‘Maybe In The Future’. ‘Blue’ is more direct, proving once again they the duo offer two mighty heads of the same coin.
All of which sets the stage for the performance of the night. Arriving pretty much straight from San Francisco, James Vincent McMorrow struggles slightly with an out of tune guitar on his first number before settling behind his piano and absolutely nailing it. Kudos too for his appreciation for the Choice concept, something that it can be easy to forget. All of which leaves Delorentos to close the performance side, providing yet more boisterous guitar music.
And so we wait for the big announcement, offering time to reflect on the night and the position of the Choice in general. There’s always an opinion to be found on the shortlist but it’s hard not to wish that the likes of God Knows + mynameisjOhn, The Wonder Villains, Paddy Hanna, Adebisi Shank (RIP), Malibu Shark Attack or many others had been given the opportunity. By basing the initial selection on what ten individuals have heard can always lead to a skewed snapshot of the domestic scene. Anything that shines a light on Irish music is to of course be treasured, but perhaps a far wider first poll followed by the traditional panel decision might be a better way to go.
That’s for another day though, as here is Richie Egan to announce that Hozier (who can’t be with us tonight) is the winner. Except he isn’t. A brief reference to a “spiritual album” and then it’s out there, The Gloaming have won. There’s a some cheers, some mumbling and then the announcement that, as they can’t be with us tonight, their girlfriends are going to accept the prize. It’s an excellent decision of course, an indication that the Choice still values artistic endeavour over anything else. Ten years in and it still fulfils a vital role. Now may be the time to shake it up.