Like troubled diva Whitney Houston, the Oxford Quartet Stornoway were not to be confined by this week’s volcanic dust clouds (or was that the Celtic trophy cabinet being cleaned?). They came to Dublin to a warm, receptive crowd (including a number of their proud family members). With not even an album release to their name yet (they only signed to 4AD last month), it is fair to say that the majority of tonight’s Crawdaddy crowd were here based upon Stornoway’s performance on Later With Jools Holland earlier in the year. Their waifish, very English nasal vocal and light folk is reminiscent of Noah And The Whale, whilst the trendy use of the banjo in the vein of Mumford and Sons, is very much of the moment.
Their opener, -We Are The Human Battery’, with its witty observations on modern society, was a great ice-breaker, before they launched into the better known recent single, the absorbing -I Saw You Blink’. Their sound is intricate pop folk in the style of angst-laden chin-strokers, but it is really brought above the mundane by the unusual and distinctive voice of lead singer Brian Briggs.
Part-way through the set, the truly exceptional -Fuel Up’, surely a future single, proved a popular choice with the crowd. Although Briggs’ brother (and trumpeter) was unable to make it over for the gig, they did have a fifth member, violin player Rahul, at their disposal and put his sound to good use in -Cold Harbour Lane’.
The inevitable encore, refreshingly acoustic, with the PA switched off, added to the intensity of the evening, but as the lead singer himself conceded, it was somewhat depressing that their cover of Black Box’s -Ride On Time’ received the biggest cheer of the night. While Stornoway are unlikely to set the world alight, they’ve talent enough to make their debut album, due next month, an interesting prospect.