Tuesday 21 October 2014

Bell X1 play Vicar Street

Bell X1 Vicar Street, Dublin John Meagher The Comedy of Errors Abbey Theatre, Dublin Bruce Arnold

Published 02/04/2009 | 00:00

What a difference four months make. Last November, Bell X1 were decidedly flat when they road-tested songs from the then forthcoming album 'Blue Lights On The Runway' at this venue. With founding member Brian Crosby having just departed, their usual air of confidence was missing.

Now that the album -- a domestic chart-topper -- has come out and they have just returned from their latest well-received US mini-tour, they tear into their set like men possessed.

And what a strong set this is -- an hour-and-a-half where only one song fails to leave a mark.

The new material sounds great -- not least the Radiohead-like opener 'How Your Heart Is Wired' and next single 'The Ribs of a Broken Umbrella'.

The original trio -- Noonan, multi-instrumentalist Dave Geraghty and bassist Dominic Philips -- are supplemented by a pair of highly capable musicians, Marc Aubele (keys) and Rory Doyle (drums), who help add texture to songs as lovely as 'Amelia' and 'Next To You'.

'Eve, The Apple Of My Eye' from their best album, 'Music in Mouth', is delivered so movingly it's likely to raise goose-pimples.

The bulk of the 16 songs played could -- and often do -- work well on daytime radio. Say what you will about Bell X1, but they certainly know how to pen catchy tunes.

Impressive as 'Tongue', 'Flame' and 'Rocky Took a Lover' are in their recorded states, they truly come alive in concert.

For the encore, the three original members perform a lovely take on early single 'Pinball Machine', before being joined by Aubele and Doyle for the night's one bum tune, the lyrically atrocious 'One-Stringed Harp'. Sample lyric: "She's just pulling her knickers from her arse/Like she's playing a one-stringed harp."

Traditional closer 'I'll See Your Heart and I'll Raise You Mine' -- with a little bit of Nick Cave's 'Into Your Arms' thrown in for good measure -- is performed with aplomb.

Throughout, there's a sense of a band straining at the confines of Vicar Street. Everything -- from the epic sound to the lightshow -- is geared for a bigger stage. A support slot with U2 at Croke Park maybe?

'The Comedy of Errors' is an early Shakespeare play, riotously full of mistaken identities, from beginning to end, with jokes, puns and comic situations leading to a stunning climax as the many knots are unravelled.

Shakespeare got it from Plautus, who got it from Poseidippus. It has survived the long journey well.

There is a poignancy in the story of children lost at sea, many years before, and then recovered. This is focused on Egeon, played in classic Shakespearean style by John Kavanagh. He delivers, uniquely, his iambic pentameters to the manner born.

Karl Sheils, who plays Solinus, Duke of Ephesus, as a 'spiv' with two-toned shoes, finds blank verse unfamiliar. The two men create, from the beginning, a split between two different interpretations moving along uneasily.

The play has two sets of twins, servants and masters. The two Dromios, Ciaran O'Brien and Peter Daly, provide funny episodes of slapstick. Their two masters, both named Antipholus, blunder through myriad mistaken identity episodes that keep the action, and the audience, on tenterhooks.

The actors are mixed in their performances, some displaying good comic relief, while others are more lugubrious. There is strange use of sound effects, whistles and cries. But the play tumbles along at a fast and eccentric pace, giving us plenty of laughter.

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