The charity Able2Uk are committed to making gigs a more user-friendly environment for disabled music fans. Its second specially curated concert (the first took place in London back in 2012), hosted by Gail Porter, featured additional stewards, clear signage and less congested areas – benefiting all punters – plus greater disabled access and viewing areas.
Hozier/Kodaline/Prides | Rating: *** | O2 Academy, Glasgow
Filmed messages of support from musicians, DJs and Mark Wahlberg, and touching testimony from those who have not allowed their disability to disable them were all signed and subtitled.
Glasgow trio Prides opened the show as an acoustic duo because “all our other instruments broke” but, without the big shiny synth hooks, their songs were somewhat pallid and ponderous.
Following their low-key warm-up, Irish quartet Kodaline remained in the middle of the road with a mix of happy clappy mandolin ditties, bleeding heart piano ballads and more propulsive pop/rock numbers with driving synth decoration.
Singer Steve Garrigan can shoot for the stratosphere with his falsetto, yet most of the songs were so inoffensive as to leave no trace. Their debut hit All I Want was the quavery-lipped exception, a heartbreak wallow with plangent guitar work and aching vocals.
Headliner Hozier was almost upstaged by Able2UK founder Howard Thorpe, a man who prefers to focus on ability rather than disability, and whose moving but pragmatic speech got one of the biggest cheers of the night.
Hozier was initially greeted with screams but there was little in his manicured soul, blues and gospel-infused pop set to get hot under the collar about. From Eden made explicit his debt to Van Morrison in his use of melody and phrasing, while he followed timidly in Ry Cooder’s footsteps on the parched desert blues of From Eden, relying on a wordless singalong refrain to give it a lift.
Someone New – introduced as “a fun one” – featured impressive layered soprano backing vocals from his bandmates, who then got carried away with an overly fussy arrangement of The Beatles’ Blackbird, robbing the song of its affecting simplicity.
Again, it was the debut hit which stood out. Take Me to Church was strong on tune, structure, message and delivery, naturally anthemic without resorting to chestbeating and sufficiently uplifting to complement the can-do spirit of the entire evening, working towards a time when concerts like this are not a special case.