One of the greatest blessings as the American-born editor of a music Web site with a focus on the UK music scene is being able to see those bands you saw so much potential in as they became a success in the UK, and then see that success translate stateside. This is exactly what happened Sunday night at Jammin’ Java, the venue that played host to Irish band Kodaline‘s first-ever headline show in the Washington, DC area, and wow, was it a memorable one. The show was so airtight sold out, I had friends that wanted to come and they couldn’t buy tickets even though they really wanted to be there. Not to worry, friends. They will be back soon…
We were rather unimpressed by the lateness of the start, which was mostly caused by the tardy arrival of opener and New York City-based singer/songwriter Diane Birch, who then needed time to sound check. Luckily for her, the night was to begin pretty early, so the delay wasn’t too bad. Admittedly, I haven’t followed Birch’s career closely, and all I could remember of it was her 2009 album ‘Bible Belt’ and its whiffs of ’70s soul. On the cover of that album, she’s wearing a hat ala Blossom. So imagine my surprise when she came out in short shorts and black tights, and then proceeded to…wait for it…bring out the funk.
It was a (nice) kick in the rear. Her set was filled mainly with songs from her brand new album on S-Curve Records, ‘Speak a Little Louder’; in a genuine way, Birch explained why the song and album had that name: because sometimes you need to speak a little bit louder to be heard. I found this inspiring hearing this from a fellow woman but I can see this applying to anyone, male or female. Her new single ‘All the Love You Got’, allows her voice to soar while maintaining the soulful edge of ‘Bible Belt’ that won her fans. As for the funk, ‘Love and War’ was a highlight, making me imagine bell-bottomed dancers cutting a rug under the mirrorball (which, hilariously, was actually spinning that night at Jammin’ Java). I especially liked her set closer, ‘Lighthouse’, in which she asked the audience to clap a syncopated rhythm along with her.
Jammin’ Java is not a big place (200 capacity) but for most international acts on their first tour of the States, it is not uncommon to play here or the other two venues in DC that are comparable in size, Black Cat Backstage and DC9. Cheryl had said to me that she was surprised that this venue had sold out for Kodaline, since when she’d seen them open for the Airborne Toxic Event in May when I was on blog work holiday in England, there were few people who even knew who they were. Credit the album coming out ahead of the tour (uh, by less than a week?), the quality of said album, Spotify, the videos, the charm of the guys themselves…and you have a sold out show. Not an easy feat for any band on their first trip to our country, so I think the band deserves a pat on the back.
Rather than rest on their laurels, the Irish group didn’t disappoint, playing track after track from their debut album ‘In a Perfect World’. Let me summarise the things we learned on this evening. ‘The Answer’ is “probably” frontman Steve Garrigan’s favourite song, and judging from a hyperactive girl who begged for it, he made her year by playing it. Despite its inevitable location somewhere in the middle of the set list, ‘Love Like This’ brings the house down. ‘Way Back When’ offers Kodaline the opportunity to take a step back in time and revisit days when they would sing in someone’s bedroom, dreaming of success one day. (Bless.) The band do an absolutely blinding acoustic version of Sam Cooke’s ‘Bring It On Home to Me’ that has to be heard to be believed. (I tried videotaping it but the lighting was terrible. If we can salvage it, we’ll post it.)
Oh, and Cheryl and I think Steve finally got over his ex-girlfriend: I’ve seen them five times now and he would always preface ‘All I Want’ explaining it was a song about her and he hoped she would never hear about it. No such intro in Washington, and with drummer Vinny May Jr. hitting the skins with such gusto, there’s no mistake that with a thunderous ending like that, it’s not entirely a sad song. Frankly, with the 100+ fans waiting for them after the show, in a pretty orderly queue I might add, I’m sure the hurtful memories of an ex are the furthest thing from his mind now. The best way to get over a broken heart? Write about it and be a huge success. That’s the best revenge.
After the cut: the set lists from the evening.
Continue reading Live Review: Kodaline with Diane Birch at Jammin’ Java, Vienna, VA – 13th October 2013