“I FEAR we’ve peaked too early,” joked singer Paul Noonan following only the third song of the night, A Thousand Little Downers, a track that coasted in on some twinkling piano and Noonan’s voice like crystal reverberating, and ended amidst a meaty guitar line, a burst of triumphant trumpet and the frontman having taking up position behind the drums.
An audience which Noonan admitted had been kept waiting by some enforced piano tuning would have indeed quickly forgiven all, given the quality of the opening here.
The first song, Rocky Took a Lover, was delivered vocally unamplified amidst subtle piano and acoustic guitar to a respectfully silent audience, blended at its finale with a positively yelled couple of chorus lines from Them’s Here Comes the Night. Unlike their Northern Irish counterparts, Dublin’s Bell X1 are a relatively unknown quantity outside their home country, while being hugely popular inside. As far as the louder and more well-oiled voices among the sold-out crowd here could be heard, a sizeable, youthful Irish expat contingent had found its way in, and Noonan’s commiserations over the rugby result earlier in the day were met with knowing sighs.
They are at once a band who every inch justify the faith their fans obviously place in them, yet whose style can be easily interpreted as that of a more rarefied undercover success. Every so often they break out into anthemics of an arena-filling dimension – Eve, the Apple of My Eye’s lush balladry; the floorfilling indie disco of Flame; The End is Nigh’s epic qualities – but their core sound is built on heavy basslines, richly eccentric compositions and a breadth of sonic playfulness, which perhaps explains their more alternative profile over here.