As Eliot Sumner’s roaring rock and roll set came to a close at 9.05 pm on Sunday night, fears that Lykke Li’s appearance on the Vicar Street stage would be somewhat late were soon realised.
It wasn’t until 9.45pm that she joined her band mates and commenced proceedings with crystal clear renditions of ‘Sadness is a Blessing’ and ‘I never Learn’, her face all the while masked by black drapes hanging form the ceiling, some creative lighting and an abundance of dry ice.
Besides the obligatory “I want to see lighters/camera phones in the air” and “How are you doing Dublin?” banter with the audience was kept to a minimum, leaving the songs to speak for themselves.
From the excitement levels observed on the ground floor, the audience was split between die hard fans, part time enthusiasts and those who had paid the €40 euro entry fee to see what the fuss was all about.
Synchronisation between the groups emerged when the familiar ‘No Rest for the Wicked’ and mega hit ‘I Follow Rivers’ were belted out by the Swedish siren. The latter of the two songs took a moment to register with the crowd following its intro, an understandable reaction given that the version remixed by The Magician had a more significant presence on Irish radio.
Draped in a black smock-like kimono for the concert’s entirety, Li made sure to get involved with as much percussion as she could throughout her proud recital of hits and new tracks.
One perplexing moment came when she announced that she would sing a cover. Keeping in mind that she had recently gifted U2 with guest vocals for the song ‘The Troubles’ from Songs of Innocence, this seemed like a likely choice.
Alas, it was quickly announced that a song from the Canadian hip hop singer Drake, ‘Hold On, We're Going Home’ would fill this slot. If she had not revealed that the song was a cover it’s safe to say some of the audience would have believed that she was singing a new song of her own thanks to her haunting vocals which powered the borrowed track.
Songs like ‘Never Gonna Love Again’ were welcomed warmly by the audience who continuously struggled with the timing of their applause due to a number of false endings on tracks from Li’s new album ‘I Never Learn’.
Eliot Sumner later returned to the stage to join Li for a lively performance of the provocatively written ‘Got Some’. The energetic sonic bullet rang through the venue and inspired the thought “Who’s the headliner here?” as Sumner easily held her own singing with Li.
The main set drew to a close an hour after it began, followed by a quick check of the audience’s watches to see if an encore could be squeezed in before the 11.30pm curfew. She returned with ‘Heart of Steel’, a break up song that drew a line under the set’s main theme of heartbreak, love and loss. This was to be the final song of the evening. Anyone hoping for the one in a million chance of a Bono appearance or even the more realistic dream of a rendition of the show stopper ‘I know places’ were left disappointed.
A talented backing band and pitch perfect renditions of much-loved reliable songs and tracks that were still green to many of the sizeable crowd, meant that the punters got what they paid for and what was to be expected of the evening – a solid and consistent performance from an internationally acclaimed singer with few frills or surprises on offer.
Like a thunderclap from the clear blue sky it appeared : U2's first album in five years. In what surely rates as one of the entertainment industry surprises of 2014 the band announced Songs Of Innocence was being made available immediately for free download to Apples iTunes subscribers, after they had performed their new single The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone) at an Apple press conference in California.