Thursday 17 August 2017

Icelandic magic in the suburbs, and a small town girl who lets us down

Rock: Sigur Rós, Royal Hospital, Dublin

Impressive: Philip Bailey, Earth Wind & Fire singer.
Impressive: Philip Bailey, Earth Wind & Fire singer.

Sigur Rós have made seven acclaimed albums since 1997 and soundtracked countless documentaries and dramas whenever a musical director requires ethereal music that incorporates classical, minimal and post-rock sensibilities. Now their fan base has swelled from an Irish debut in the Temple Bar Music Centre in 2000 to the great outdoors.

They perform an intro from the back of the stage, briefly suggesting this could be some kind of aloof soundsystem gig, but such fears prove unfounded as frontman Jónsi Birgisson and company take to the front of the stage and perform a pristine 12-song set. Birgisson is noted for playing his guitar with a bow and singing in a unique falsetto. He does both beautifully. During 'Festival', he holds a note for a staggeringly long period of time.

Sigur Rós have that rare gift of being able to deliver intimate and warm shows in big open spaces. They weave a magical web of sound incorporating keyboards, top pianos, glockenspiel and guitars. Long may their Icelandic genius enchant and entertain us.

- Eamon Sweeney

Funk: Earth, Wind & Fire, 3Arena, Dublin

Earth, Wind & Fire belong in the premier league of funk alongside fellow pioneers Parliament, Funkadelic and the recently deceased purple genius Prince. Bandleader Maurice White also died this year, although he hasn't been a touring member in recent years as he was battling Parkinson's disease. Clad in their signature red and black colour scheme, the 12-man band dramatically freeze like statues before breaking into an infectious dance routine. The 1979 disco hit 'Boogie Wonderland' immediately hits the sweet spot and the whole auditorium dances and sings along.

Earth, Wind & Fire let the music do all the talking. The soulful funk of the 1975 chart-topper 'Sing a Song' is another brilliant moment.

The musicianship and showmanship is superb, topped off with incredible singing by Philip Bailey, who possesses a staggering four-octave and falsetto range.

- Eamon Sweeney

Theatre: The Wake, Abbey Theatre, Dublin

Vera comes home to small town west of Ireland unannounced. She has been left the family hotel by her mother, and her brother and sisters are scheming to gain possession of it. Meanwhile her beloved grandmother has died, and her siblings didn't bother to let her know. She shacks up with her teenage flame, a drifter called Finbar, and causes scandal in the town.

Prudent and avaricious, the rest of the O'Toole family view Vera, who they know works as a prostitute in the USA, as a transgressor. Set in the 1990s, it is pre-Celtic Tiger, but the money grubbing and small town empire building are getting into their stride.

Joined by her brother-in-law Henry, Vera and Finbar break into the hotel, and the trio establish jurisdiction for a booze-fuelled party, lights blazing across the main street. But Vera and her anarchic bunch are no match for the establishment. They lack the ruthlessness of self-interest. They have no plan.

While there are plenty of flashes of brilliance in the writing, this play lacks the discipline and focus of Tom Murphy's best work. Instead of some deep mutual interrogations, we get songs.

Brian Doherty is both funny and deeply moving as the damaged Finbar. Henry, the semi-Anglo lawyer with a touch of dandy, is a terrifically complex character, given vivid life by Frank McCusker.

- Katy Hayes

Irish Independent

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