Review of the Week: Republic of Loose * * * *
(The Academy, Dublin)
SAY WHAT you will about Mick Pyro, but there's no doubting the man's charisma. The focal and vocal point of Republic of Loose works his stage like a Joshua Tree-era Bono.
For a so-called gregarious race, we can be very reserved when performing in front of a paying audience -- countless nights spent in places like Whelan's watching yet more simpering souls come to mind. So it's refreshing that Pyro and his fine band six-piece band and backing singers really want to capture your attention. And succeed.
Republic of Loose are out of step entirely with prevailing trends. It's almost like they stopped listening to music after hearing the young Prince and early Dexys Midnight Runners. Funk and soul are their twin loves and they are distilled in a very Irish way.
This is the first in a four-Friday April residency at the Dublin venue (the second one is tonight), and they have a couple of special guests this evening. The talented Richie Egan -- better known as Jape -- is to perform with the band later, but it's the presence of Sinead O'Connor that's aroused greater excitement.
Jape gets a long night off to a good start, but a ridiculous combo from the UK -- a sort of hip-hop Boyzone -- prove to be a woeful choice as warm-up. Can I be the only one who wants to boo very loudly whenever a band repeatedly ask their audience to "make some noise"?
Thank heavens for 11.15pm and the appearance of the headliners. Pyro -- attired in primary colours and looking uncannily like Ray Winstone on a bad day -- leads his funkateers through a batch of songs from their forthcoming third album, the grandly titled Vol IV: Johnny Pyro and the Dance of Evil.
Live, and previously unheard, the newbies are hit and miss. Sometimes, Pyro's vocals get too muffled in the mix. Yet, there's enough to suggest that the new songs, in particular lead single I Like Music and the cocksure Things I Don't Like, may well match or exceed that of their well-received second album, Aaagh!.
Republic of Loose really hit a groove as the gig enters its second half. They can't go wrong with marvellously crowd-pleasing renditions of a pair of their most commercial numbers, Comeback Girl and You Know It.
The night concludes on a high. Jape leads the band through a rousing version of his trademark song, Floating. It's the best live cut of the song I've ever heard, including The Raconteurs' take on the song.
And then, as promised, Sinead O'Connor appears and performs a funked-up Nothing Compares 2 U and an updated version of Curtis Mayfield's We People Who Are Darker Than Blue.
She's still got star power. But then, so does the man beside her.