In Iveagh Gardens, Dublin has one of its most serene, picturesque and exquisite all-purpose venues and when adeptly put to use, as it is with thePIAS Nites showcase, it would take a lot to render an evening here anything but outstanding. For all intents and purposes this is Lisa Hannigan’s night but there is enough natural bonhomie on stage that none of the acts could possibly feel that her mesmerising performance detracted from their own. In fact Hannigan does her job with such aplomb and humility that even if the other acts had tanked you’d be hard pressed finding anything below placid contentment heading for the exits.
The event, curated by Hannigan herself, features C.H.A.M.P.S., Cathy Davey and Other Lives as her support acts and although clearly very few people there have ever heard of the first band, even fewer remain floating around the stalls and kiosks by the time they finish. Guessing that not an inconsiderable number of people are yet to encounter C.H.A.M.P.S., their sonorous harmonies and lush little arpeggios work to stunning effect and may well prove to be one of the best kept secrets in the PIAS stable.
More familiar to the crowd is Cathy Davey and despite the audience numbers growing thicker, Davey’s quirky, sweet voice doesn’t really register with many past the ninth row until she lofts ‘Reuben’ into the sunshine. As infectious as her charming chit-chat between songs, the song kickstarts her bright 45-minute set which probably deserves to be a little higher up the bill in her home town. That’s not to say that Other Lives don’t deserve their place. The Okalahoma five-piece have been in rare form since the release of Tamer Animals in 2011 and extensive touring has obviously paid dividends to their stagecraft. Resembling at points Midlake and Beach House the band’s energy and musical interplay add some dynamism to the fare. As vocalist Jesse Tabish involves himself with more and more instruments the band’s sound saunters between light and dark like a musical chameleon; somehow allowing the band to invoke euphoria and introspection from the crowd simultaneously.
With the sun still shining by the time Lisa Hannigan and her band come to the stage the singer clearly emotional at what she calls her “greatest ever night”. It’s not without reason that Hannigan is held in such high regard by her peers in Irish music and the quality of her on-stage guests is an irrefutable testament to this. Joined first by James Vincent McMorrorw for ‘Some Surprise’, Paul Noonan for Talking Heads’ ‘This Must Be The Place’ and Cathy Davey lending backing vocals to ‘Venn Diagram’, it would be remiss to intimate that the guests add anything other than seasoning. Hannigan is already a consummate performer and so effortlessly amiable that the guests can be superfluous. Her set includes tracks from both her albums and she shows some nice touches of creativity with re-workings of ‘Blue Moon’ with Davey, Depeche Mode’s ‘Personal Jesus’ and, joined by her full band on backing vocals, a homage to the late Levon Helm with a fully stripped down version of ‘The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down’.
It all finishes with an extraordinary version of ‘Knots’ and although she may have left the stage covered in paint, at the risk of cornballing the entire night it is Hannigan’s darling demeanour and sublime performance that will be remembered by the crowd.
Additional reporting: Emily Brady
Photos: Paulo Goncalves [nggallery id=623]