It’s the first time they’ve graced a Dublin stage in nine months and Overhead, the Albatross are raging against the dying of the light. With a strict curfew in place and the clock ticking away, fears are mounting that we’re in for something of an abrupt finish. Thankfully, cooler heads prevail and a natural – and rather essential – conclusion will eventually be reached, of which more later.
Tonight’s appearance at the Twisted Pepper – in celebration of Record Store Day – marks a sort of homecoming for the instrumental sextet, having spent the winter months holed up in the Czech Republic assembling their forthcoming debut album. Having scrambled onto the stage and offered the briefest of introductions, it’s apparent that there’s little time for fanfare, but who needs it when the strains of ‘Pigonometry’ take hold so quickly and effectively? A relatively short track by Overhead’s standards – clocking in at around five minutes – it’s nonetheless spellbinding, a tight distillation of what these guys are about: patient builds, subtle teases and enthralling crescendos.
As with any post rock outfit, it’s easy to spot the influences, and while there are traces of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, This Will Destroy You, Russian Circles et al on display, Overhead deftly avoid sound-alike status. Patience is a virtue when it comes to this style of music – the lack of catchy vocal lines and conventional structure always going to represent something of a barrier to those who don’t drool over effects pedals and tremolo flourishes, but Overhead never go in for shoegaze-y self-indulgence. Their power lies in the collective, both the union of their own individual skills and the inclusion of the audience every step of the way.
In lieu of a traditional frontman, bassist Joe Panama makes for a cheerleader of notable charm, urging the crowd on through sheer force of will, often drawing on his days in Dublin metal outfit Red Enemy via a succession of determined, ridiculous and determinedly ridiculous facial expressions. His – and that of his cohorts – boundless enthusiasm is something to behold, elevating intricate musicianship throughout. New track ‘Telekinetic Forest Guard’, offered up in memory of recently departed Deftones bassist Chi Cheng, comes with the standard, “It’s our first time playing this live” boilerplate but sounds as ambitious as anything else on show and acts as a nice teaser for the eventual album release. Elsewhere, ‘Think Thank Thunk’ remains one of the quickest near-ten minute tracks you’re ever likely to hear, gliding past with precise grace while live favourite ‘Flu Birds’ provokes a huge roar, but not quite the loudest of all.
“Sing along if you know the words”, announces Panama before launching into ‘Footprints (in the Blood Soaked Snow)’, the intro prompting knowing grins from those who’ve experienced the band’s coup de grâce in the past. By the time the track hits its sweet spot and Overhead join voices with their acolytes to scream along with the now-customary closing victory chant (think the refrain of Arcade Fire’s ‘Wake Up’ multiplied by ten), it’s all you can do not to punch the air in triumph. A natural, sustained roar that those caught unawares will not soon forget. It’s that rare, truly transcendent moment that makes you feel ten feet tall. And not a raised iPhone in sight. Glorious.