The Gloaming | Royal Festival Hall | 22 September 2016
Photo credit: www.facebook.com/TheGloamingOfficial
As far as titles go ‘Song 44’ is right down there with Sigur Ros’ ‘( )’, Blur’s ‘Song 2’, The National’s ‘Conversation 16’, and The Cure’s ‘Untitled’. But that’s just fine – all the creativity has been poured into the majestic song itself. And tonight it sounds even more magnificent than the version that opens The Gloaming’s self-titled debut album.
The climax of their debut Royal Festival Hall performance is the perfect distillation of the five members’ individual talents. Guitarist Dennis Cahill’s unfussy, rhythmic playing forms a foundation for the delicate interplay between Martin Hayes’ intricate fiddle work, the warmth of Caoimhin Ó Raghallaigh’s hardanger, and Thomas Bartlett’s unique approach to the piano, alternately plucking the strings like a giant harp and, when playing the instrument more traditionally, pouring his entire body into the keys.
Uniting these elements is sean-nós singer Iarla Ó Lionáird’s tender but powerful voice, effortlessly soaring through the venue and transporting everybody to another time and place – like much of The Gloaming’s repertoire. Yearning set opener ‘The Pilgrim’s Song’, a sublime union of Ó Lionáird’s resonant vocal and (in particular) Hayes’ nimble playing, instantly takes the hushed audience to the otherworldly setting they’ll be inhabiting for the next 90 minutes. The ethereal ‘Oisin’s Song’ is just as moving, complementing Bartlett’s off-kilter time signatures and Ó Raghallaigh sonic experimentation with a melody as beuatiful as it is timeless. And the gentle instrumental ‘Allistrum’s March’, with the artistry of Hayes and Ó Raghallaigh standing in for Ó Lionáird’s voice, fuses the modern with the traditional.
Of course there’s the potential for such hallowed music to get very academic and highbrow, but at regular intervals band members casually chat to the audience about everything from football and John McLaughlin to St Patrick, piano lessons, and having their mind blown by a Nick Cave gig at this same venue.
It’s likely that The Gloaming have had that same effect on the vast majority of people who, still spellbound, shuffle out of the Royal Festival Hall tonight.