We live in an age when it is the accepted norm for a group to endlessly split up and get back together again in an infinite nostalgic loop. The 4 Of Us never went away, despite a few line up changes and tweaks over the years.
Newry brothers Brendan and Declan Murphy have remained a constant presence, maintaining an impressive uninterrupted run since the release of their blockbuster debut album Songs for the Tempted back in the mists of 1989, which also spawned the perennial radio hit and calling card song ‘Mary.’
They also have a new album entitled Sugar Island to show off, so they split the night into two sets with the second concentrating on the songs from an era when Ian Dempsey was still on RTE breakfast radio with Zig and Zag, and Ireland had yet to compete in a World Cup finals. They are clearly very comfortable in this room, having chosen it to record Live in Vicar St here in 2009.
Brendan Murphy is a very funny and friendly front man with a neat line in humorous banter. Murphy has barely aged a day since the band’s heyday and still looks like Newry’s answer to Bryan Ferry.
The song choices hit home, delight the crowd and serve as a timely reminder just how many good songs in the tank they have. They also have an open door approach to the set list and canvass for choices on Facebook. The only slight criticism is over-reliance on an acoustic and rootsy sound, which is absolutely fine, but some of the more uptempo hits would be even better with a bit more volume and punch.
The 4 Of Us still fulfil the role of a Saturday night party band you can sing along to with aplomb. The songs and the band have both aged very well, and there is a still a remarkable freshness and vitality to their songbook, which many might have taken a little bit for granted.
The Vamps are a very modern pop phenomenon. Rather than try the old school approach of shopping their demos around record labels, or pursue The X Factor route to stardom, they are bona fide YouTube celebrities. They even found each other and formed through YouTube and Facebook.
How much retro can you take? If you're a devotee of McBusted, the answer, the group's 3Arena concert suggested, is 'a lot'. The guitar-slinging mega-boyband - a Vulcan mind-melding of McFly and Busted, minus the latter's Charlie Simpson - crowbarred in a lifetime's supply of 80s pop culture references, with endless hat-tips to Back to the Future, Street Fighter, and so on, and a giant Marty McFly DeLorean suspended from wires.
Compared to the usual cast of preening peacocks, raucous rock stars, bona fide icons, nauseating narcissists and total megalomaniacs who normally strut their stuff on this vast dockside stage, Ben Howard is as unassuming as they come.