Its Sunday evening, it could be the last balmy of the year for us. The weather is unseasonably warm, there is a good buzz around town and the Allah-la’s are in town to soundtrack it all for us. For what is their first Irish show the Workman’s club is heaving with fans who surely had their interest piqued by the surfy, California-retro style and laid-back, harmony-rich 60’s rock of the bands self titled 2012 LP.
Tonight the band are well-rehearsed, slick and every so slightly more in your face than on their albums. Songs like ‘Catamaran’, ‘Tell Me What’s on Your Mind’, ‘Long Journey’, ‘Don’t you Forget It’ & ‘Had it all’ all get the live treatment and sound great, maybe even better than the record and are met with raucous cheers. They remind us why we like this band. But over the course of a gig the audience needs to be captivated, entertained and enthralled, needs to be kept on edge. It’s clear that in between the ‘big songs’ a creeping sense of ennui and unease is beginning to permeate the crowd. By the half-way point of the show, the audience has dissipated quite noticeably.
What it comes down to is the fact that a lot of their songs sound similar, are probably in the same time-signature and offer little in terms of dynamics. There is no up and down, no ebb and flow. There are no blistering solos, no crazy drum fills. It’s all a little too nice and polite. There are no surprises.
To their credit, they continue on undeterred and maybe unaware of what’s going on down on the ground, vocalist Miles Michaud is giving it his all. Instrumental tracks like ‘Sacred Sands’ and ‘Ela Novega’ sound somewhere in between the incredible bongo band and Dick Dale and work well in this setting. By the end of the gig, the drummer has swapped places with the singer and the percussionist has stood up and made himself known to the crowd. They’re doing well, but it could be so much better.
The Allah-la’s have a sound and they are bound by it. But they shouldn’t be. They should also be inspired by that sound. Judging from tonight they are all accomplished musicians and their harmonies are, at times, a thing of beauty. Their second album has just come out and it sounds very similar to the first one. Retro can only get you so far and maybe that is the problem. Unless they rip up the Allah-la’s rulebook quite soon they will burn brightly for a moment, then politely fade away in the background, into the realm of unmade Tarantino movie soundtracks and or 60’s revival parties.