Live Review: RTÉ Choice Music Prize – The Shortlist Sessions

By on Monday, 6th February 2017 at 2:00 pm
 

Last Wednesday evening saw performances from nominees of the RTÉ Choice Music Prize in the candle-lit venue the Workman’s Club in Dublin city centre. Hosted by Irish musician and radio presenter/producer Cormac Battle, the evening started with two nominees for the RTÉ Choice Music Prize for Irish Song of the Year, followed by two of the acts shortlisted for Irish Album of the Year.

Ten acts have been shortlisted for the Irish Song of the Year, including James Vincent McMorrow and ex-One Direction-er Niall Horan. On Wednesday we saw performances from Heroes in Hiding and Raglans, both based in Dublin and the only two acts nominated for this award who have self-released their singles. Up first were folk-rock quartet Heroes in Hiding, who revealed during a brief pre-performance interview with Battle that they had never won or been nominated for an award.

However, within 30 seconds or so of the band playing their nominated track ‘Hospital’, it became pretty clear why they are now getting this kind of recognition conferred by the Choice Music Prize. ‘Hospital’ is a catchy track, featuring seemingly medical-inspired percussive sounds and upbeat guitars and drums. It’s little less folky than some of the band’s other stuff but is definitely a track you can dance or bob your head along to. The chorus, featuring vocalist Joe Carroll crowing “next thing I knew / I was in the hospital”, recalls a real near death experience of Carroll’s in which he remembers very little of the incident, but after which he woke up in a hospital bed.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dZlyiiVJffg[/youtube]

The band followed this up with ‘Beer’, for which Carroll donned an acoustic guitar. Bassist Liam McCabe took the lead vocals on this track, which started out much more mellow and laid back than ‘Hospital’ before building to an early Mumford and Sons-esque climax (sans banjo) that literally made the room shake.

Next up was Raglans, who thanked their manager and revealed that it was their second time playing The Workman’s Club. Lead singer Stephen Kelly’s stage presence was everything you could want from a ballsy lead singer. He has a swagger and laid back confidence, joking “if you feel like voting for us: thank you. If you don’t… f**k you”. They started with ‘House Where I Was Born’, which isn’t the track that is up for nomination but is a solid track nonetheless; it features on their ‘Again & Again EP’. With edgy guitars and intense drums aplenty, this is as authentic rock ‘n’ roll as you’ve ever heard. Kelly’s Irish accent doesn’t come across when he singing and at times, the band actually reminded me of early Arctic Monkeys, in the rough and ready, yet great sound of their music. Nominated track ‘Who Knows’ came next: high in energy, it engaged the crowd most out of all the acts we saw that evening. Commanding the stage with growing indie guitar hooks and a hammering drumbeat, the band looked to be in their element and enjoying their moment in the spotlight being nominated for the Choice Music Prize.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V9P2As4JCu4[/youtube]

Following a break, it was time for a pair of the Irish Album of the Year nominees to take to the stage. Bantum is an electronic act originally from Cork who appeared onstage armed only with a guitar and a laptop. He jokingly commented that he would get himself a new guitar if he won the prize money. Pretty different in style to previous two acts, Bantum is synth heavy, and track ‘Take It’ features ghostly vocals from Loah, whose voice is reminiscent of the xx’s Romy Madley-Croft. [Loah appeared at Hard Working Class Heroes 2016 last October and is scheduled to appear at SXSW 2017. – Ed.] It’s the kind of chilled out dance track that would be fitting at a festival as the sun is beginning to set and people are in between the highs of the morning and getting their second wind just in time for the evening acts. didn’t catch the name of the second track, but it carried an equally atmospheric and laid-back essence. Whilst I really enjoyed Bantum, The Workman’s Club didn’t seem like the best setting for the performance, and his sound didn’t quite seem to engage the crowd as well as other acts. Maybe this was because the event was on a mid-week evening? However, Bantum definitely has an easy-going ambient sound that would work better in a club at the weekend, or a summer festival.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ky1xy600BKc[/youtube]

The final act of the evening was indie duo We Cut Corners. Both members are teachers and they stood together onstage with their acoustic guitars. Both John Duignan and Conall Ó Breacháin have high, clear and bright singing voices, one complimenting the other. They started with ‘Reluctant Recluse’, a smoky, soft acoustic track, featuring some nimble wordplay (“I was a reckless child / now I’m a childless wreck”), and a wholly passionate performance. This track appears on ‘The Cadences of Others’, the album for which the band is nominated. Even while simply performed with just a pair of melancholic acoustic guitars, the delivery of ‘Reluctant Recluse’ on this night conveyed a whole melting pot of emotions, making the track a standout.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F4wGroj4sck[/youtube]

The second and final song from We Cut Corners was ‘Of Whatever’. Despite the quiet nature of the track, the pair were able to keep the rapt attention of the crowd, the crystalline vocals and emotive lyrics mesmerising. Lyrics like “but young love is reckless / leaves you gasping and breathless” and “a wave of whatever / is sweeping the nation” cemented this for me as being a genuinely beautiful track, making me think of the act as an Irish male First Aid Kit.

All in all, it was a fantastic night and I was glad to have seen all four acts perform, each bringing something different to the table. Votes can now be cast by the public for both the RTÉ Choice Music Prize Irish Song of the Year and of the Irish Album of the Year. The winners will be announced at a live event on Thursday, the 9th of March, at Dublin Vicar Street.

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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