Republic of Loose fans witnessed a vastly-changed line-up take to the Academy stage on Christmas Eve-Eve-Eve (December 22nd to the rest of you) for their sole Dublin headlining show of 2009.
Founding members Mick and Dave Pyro, along with eponymous bassist Benjamin Loose, are all that remains of the old guard as cracks increasingly begin to appear in the Terenure funk-soul troupe’s chiselled exterior. Personal difficulties and financial realities led guitarist Brez and keyboardist Deco to walk out earlier this year, and they’ve been dutifully replaced by the bloke with the beard and the guy in the Pete Wentz hoodie, respectively (if they were introduced by name, I didn’t hear it). Troubled frontman Mick Pyro is over a year sober now – and looking very healthy to boot – but the group’s internal strife doesn’t seem to have abated any – they have now recorded three albums, each with a significantly different line-up, and a fourth record, should it ever materialise, will do little to buck the trend.
Amazingly, for a band that has just lost two members to the more lucrative cover band circuit, the Loose took to the Academy stage with two more members than they’d previously boasted – a trumpeter and saxophonist swelled the number on stage beyond double figures. The brass section did add some pizzazz to proceedings – opener -Got,’ in particular, benefitted from the added authenticity of live trumpet – but they left inexplicably after a few songs, leaving the rookie keyboard player to fill in the brass parts on the same record’s rambling ’23 Things I Don’t Like.’ They returned for the final few tracks, excelling when adding an additional Latin element to the lively dance number -Break,’ but their presence was still a little baffling. It’s hard to understand why the band would hire a brass section and then ask them to sit backstage for half the night, but oddball decisions seem to be the norm for this band.
That said, the new lineup acquitted themselves very well. The groove isn’t quite as tight as it was with the old crew – the new guitarist seemed to get a little disoriented at times, and the leads sometimes sounded a little thin as a result – but they were a formidable live act before the changes and they continue to be today. Having seen the band perform on three separate occasions over the past year or so, I’ve noticed a steady improvement in Pyro’s vocals – he’s always proved his mettle on tape, but he’s finally returning to the kind of pitch-perfect form that earned the early Loose the reputation of one of Ireland’s best live acts. The newly size-zero singer is the consummate frontman – he commanded the stage with voracious energy, and made at least one admirable attempt to involve the new beardy bloke in proceedings, with limited success.
The group’s profile in Ireland is such that they can call on at least five instantly recognisable tracks at any point in their set. The unmistakable -Girl I’m Gonna Fuck You Up’ was notable by its absence, but mainstays like -Comeback Girl,’ -The Steady Song’ and -I Like Music’ brought the house down alongside the more surprising inclusions, such as (the disappointing) -Mary Caine’ and -Somebody Screamed,’ both from 2006’s breakout Aaaagh!. Despite the glaring (some would say unforgiveable!) omission of -Girl I’m Gonna Fuck You Up,’ 2004’s This Is The Tomb Of The Juice was well-represented, with trio -Hold Up,’ -Tell More Lies’ and the sleazy, anthemic -Ride With Us’ all making an appearance, while a new -70s funk-styled track was well-received despite being far from the finished article.
All in all, it’s hard to make any definitive judgement on the new Republic of Loose. They put on a great show, sure, but is the chemistry there to keep producing the music of old? First impressions would seem to suggest that they’re a little unsure of themselves.
Photos by Kieran Frost.