Button Factory, Dublin
18 July 2012
The Fall play to a big but slow-to-get-going crowd in Dublin on the first of three Ireland tour dates. ÃÂ
Stefan Murphy is part of a long tradition of great Dublin songwriters,cut from the same cloth as Phil Lynott, he's a more punk DamienÃÂ Dempsey. He is the Mighty Stef, however he is often amplified by aÃÂ collection of great musicians that have been playing with him for aÃÂ good few years.
The band would be as at home on a traditional Irish music line up, asÃÂ a rock, or a punk one, and they blend these elements into aÃÂ idiosyncratic style of their own. They are perfectly suited to theÃÂ same bill as the Fall too, and whether Stef is beating the crap out ofÃÂ his guitar on solo nights, or joined, as he is tonight with the fullÃÂ band, the shows are always memorable.
The set takes in material fromÃÂ all three studio albums, the most recent of which was 2010's "TheÃÂ Mighty Stef and the Baptists,"an album recorded with Irish bandÃÂ Humanzi. His voice is powerful, bluesy and soulful, yet very Irish,ÃÂ and his stage presence forces total attention.
His songs are honest,ÃÂ personal, and totally captivating. Why he isn't better known outsideÃÂ Ireland defies logic. Although massive success has evaded him yet, itÃÂ hasn't swayed his motivation, and you know it's only a matter of timeÃÂ before it happens.
He gets an enthusiastic response from the crowd, and has them wellÃÂ prepped for Mark E. Smith and crew.
Speaking to two Fall fans afterÃÂ the show, who had traveled over from Bristol, they were completelyÃÂ ecstatic about the support, and were looking forward to getting theirÃÂ hands on some Mighty Stef albums today. It always feels good when anÃÂ act you really like wins over some new fans.
There is a bit of wait for Mark E. and crew, although it's notÃÂ excessive as it has been in the past. The post punk outfit have beenÃÂ going for 36 years now, and show no signs of slowing down.
The lastÃÂ few years have seen the band play less dates, so we're delighted thatÃÂ they have decided to play three here. Dublin is the first night ofÃÂ their short stint around Ireland, which will also takes in Galway andÃÂ Cork.
The last time they played in Dublin, it was to a sizeable crowdÃÂ in a smaller venue. The fact that they're playing three dates this timeÃÂ round, the Button Factory seemed like a big venue.
Testimony to theÃÂ band's enduring popularity, the venue was wedged. The crowd however,ÃÂ although having shown their appreciation in ticket sales, failed toÃÂ get going. There was an air of disinterest, especially where I wasÃÂ standing.
The nonchalant response from the crowd seemed to be pickedÃÂ up by the band, and Mark made some comments about it. He also left theÃÂ stage a couple of times for long periods, leaving the band to fill in.
When he was on stage he was focused, looked healthy, and soundedÃÂ great. It was a good solid performance, it just didn't veer towardsÃÂ some of the more epic shows witnessed over the years. As is typical ofÃÂ the Fall, the set relied heavily on newer material.
They play a new track, "Gapa", which sounds great. "Nate Will NotÃÂ Return" from the criminally underrated Ersatz GB sounds excellent, andÃÂ features alternative lyrics to the recorded version."Taking Off" fromÃÂ the same album sounds equally brilliant.
If Mark seemed unimpressedÃÂ with the crowd, Eleana is enjoying herself. She takes over vocalÃÂ duties on Reformation Post TLC's "Systematic Abuse", whether this wasÃÂ pre-planned or not remains to be seen, but she does a great job, andÃÂ the version isn't lacking because of Mark's absence.
"I've been Duped"ÃÂ from" Imperial Wax Solvent, and "Bury pts 1 & 3" from "Your FutureÃÂ Our Clutter!" sound magnificent, and Mark's hilarious intro to"CowboyÃÂ George" from the same album provokes a lot of laughter.
Older tracksÃÂ that we are treated to are Grotesque's "The Container Drivers", andÃÂ their cover of the Sonic's "Strychnine"
The close with The Real New Fall LP's "Theme from Sparta FC". It getsÃÂ the biggest cheer, and sounds fantastic. Overall, the set was tooÃÂ short, especially when you factor in Mark's disappearing bouts, and weÃÂ are left craving more.
In fact, most are reluctant to believe it'sÃÂ actually over. It feels like the crowd were slow to get into it, andÃÂ when they finally were, it was too late.
The gig can't be faultedÃÂ really, but another few songs would have been greatly appreciated.
All words by Ray Burke. You can read more from Ray on LTW here.