by / April 11th, 2013 /

Other Voices – London

Matters may have changed since the days when any Irish band without an international record deal was a rarity, but our relatively small island is still punching above its weight musically. Having spent ten years building a small empire in Co Kerry, 2013 has seen Other Voices branch out – first to Derry and now across the water to the East End of London. The chosen venue (the historic Wilton’s Music Hall) may not be the biggest in town yet of course that’s the point, you can’t transfer the Other Voices spirit to a larger room. It has to be intimate, it has to feel special.

When State drops in on the second of three nights, that element is certainly in place. As ever, there’s a televisual element to proceedings (it’s being streamed live on various sites) but, apart from a cheery floor manager and the still bafflingly wooden Aidan Gillen, the music does the talking. Which is more than Kevin Rowland does. Dexys these days are all about the present rather than the past but the sight of them lined up at the back of the stage resplendent in flat caps and over coats still sends a rush of recognition. Fittingly given the venue they soon move from pop music into the theatrical, especially when vocalist Madeleine Hyland joins them to swing her hips through a double of ‘I’m Always Going to Love You’ / ‘Incapable of Love’ that reminds of Meat Loaf’s ‘Paradise By The Dashboard Light’ in a strange sort of way. The only nod to history comes in a samba style version of ‘Geno’ that throws you off guard a little when you reach for the chorus yet this is still a classy way to spend a half hour.

Villagers are doing more than most to fly the Irish flag these days and, given that Conor O’Brien thinks this is about their “seven millionth” Other Voices appearance, they should feel right at home. It’s a duo performance tonight with Cormac Curran on piano and it is, unsurprisingly, mesmerising. Stripped of studio trickery the {Awayland} tracks adopt a simple beauty and O’Brien is far from the shy performer he once was, although he still exhibits a charming vulnerability. Truly a band in their natural setting.

By the time we return from waiting for the curly mustached barman to finish mixing yet another cocktail, the previously sparse stage is awash with various bits of equipment. As well as gear, there’s an awful lot of love in the room for John Grant. It’s easy to see why. He’s an engaging character with the air of a fighter about him – bloodied but unbowed by experiences of life and career. However in an opposite move to Villagers before him, the natural grace of his music is rather lost amongst the myriad of loops and electronics. It’s all a bit Depeche Wainwright but, as a seasoned OV goer points out to us later, the beauty of this format is that you never know when one of those magic moments might just appear. It comes tonight when Grant introduces O’Brien and the pair duet on ‘Glacier’, the Irishman lost in the music around him while his host gazes on with pride. Watching Other Voices take to the London stage with such success, it’s hard not to feel the same.

Photo: Richard Gilligan