It isn’t always a good idea to go back, but in the case of the Meteor Choice Prize we’ll make an exception. Last year’s move to the Olympia may have boosted the event’s profile but, as an event, it fell flat. Thus we’re back at Vicar St for 2013 and the difference is immediately clear. The early start time means that Heathers arrive to a still filling room but find a warm enough welcome to get us off to a spirited start. Every time we see them they get slicker and smoother but it’s no criticism, this is a band more than ready to take on the world. Wallis Bird sits at the opposite end of the spectrum, performing a solo set that threatens to spill over into chaos at any moment. It works, however, and gives the evening its first energy boost.
It falls to Adrian Crowley to settle it down again. Like some tonight, he’s been here before but it still clearly means a lot to him. He thanks the audience for their support of Irish music. Many of them respond by talking loudly while he performs in his fragile, quiet style. Windings have no such problems, giving us the first dose of noisy electric guitars. Exactly the kind of act that the Choice should give a platform to, they certainly make the most of it and turn in the performance of the night so far. The album is great, go find it now.
In the kind of gear change that the show has become known for, up next is Julie Feeney. Making her third Choice appearance, she manages to hush the venue by singing unaccompanied, before her trio of musicians ease into proceedings. Feeney still stands out as slight anomaly (especially when she wanders around the crowd in a cabaret style) but there’s no doubt that she makes the Irish scene a more interesting place. Damian Dempsey is more of the old school and although he oozes passion from every pore and is welcomed warmly, he is earnestly dull here.
If any new star is born in Vicar St, it’s Mumblin’ Deaf Ro. A charming mix of the confident and the awkward, he is undoubtedly the people’s champion. The ultimate prize may be out of his reach yet the move to give away a free download to everyone in the audience is a masterstroke. With the quiet and the eclectic out of the way, it’s left to the big name guitar bands to close proceedings. Two Door Cinema Club are elsewhere, but even they would have struggled to compete with Delorentos. The process that began last January with the release of Little Sparks is now done, with the four piece exuding a calm confidence and delivering an epic version of the title track. Despite threatening to blow our heads off, The Cast Of Cheers fall short. Where their performance here in 2010 was electric, tonight they struggle and you wonder whether a return to the drawing board is in order.
The night though, ultimately belongs to Delorentos and their prize win unites the room in appreciation. It marks the end of an evening when the Choice rediscovered its purpose. While on paper the list looked a little uninspiring, in the flesh it proved what a marvellous, evolving thing the Irish music scene has become. Long may it continue.