Mundy and The Painbirds: Dublin – live reviewMundy and The Painbirds
Dublin, Whelan’s

Irish singer-songwriter Mundy and friends play a rousing post-Boxing Day set at Whelan’s in Dublin, read Ray Burke’s report for Louder Than War below.

Mundy closes an eventful year with a homecoming gig amidst a plethora of special guests.

Support tonight comes from Dublin based band, The Chapters. The band has recently gone through a line up change, with two original members moving on. Lead singer Ross McNally, bassist Michael Murphy and drummer Ciaran Fortune remain. Simon Eustace was the most recent departure, he shot the band’s videos and has left to focus on his film production career. The band are enhanced for recording and live purposes, and tonight they are a six piece, with Aoife Ruth on violin and keys, and NC Lawlor on pedal steel.

The adjustment in line up comes with a change in musical direction. The band has long professed their love for band era Americana, but that influence has never been so pronounced. Their debut ‘Perfect Strangers’ garnered them high praise on its release but was much more of a electro tinged pop affair, albeit with a few sombre numbers too. Those quieter moments drew comparisons to Guy Garvey, and The Blue Nile and that can still be heard here. However, sophomore release ‘Blood Feels Warm ’will be much more of a country folk affair.

New song ‘Arcade of the Scribes’ is dedicated to “anyone who believes in Santa, or the tooth Fairy”. This may be newer territory but the band sound authentic in their pursuit. Their competent mastery over instruments makes them a pleasure to listen to, they’re accomplished but are never excessive. The songs are the star of the show. Ross McNally completely commands your attention with his understated emotive voice. He plays a solo acoustic number backed only by Aoife’s beautiful harmonies, which contribute an alluring captivating weight to several numbers. Bassist Michael Murphy hails from the same town as Mundy and recounts seeing him play for the first time in his school canteen. He’s clearly happy to be supporting him tonight. The bands final track sees the entire band passionately flex their muscles. Aoife swaps keys for violin and it’s an incredible close to their short set. It’s an interesting move to take such a detour in direction between albums, but the songs win out, and The Chapters have assured us tonight of their staying power.

Mundy’s career trajectory has seen some ups and downs over the years. He’s been a household name in Ireland for some years, and has had various levels of success abroad over his 18 year career. But even through difficult periods, he remained a consummate, well-loved performer. He plays this evening on a night usually reserved for Boxing Day hangovers, in an intimate venue synonymous with his vocation.

His backing band, The Painbirds, take their name from a Mark Linkous song. Mundy covered it on his most recent studio album. From the outset it appears there might be a revolving door policy with the band, compiled from those who are available on a given night. However, we learn this evening that is because sometimes band members go on to bigger things, as Mundy good humouredly admits later in the show. Tonight The Painbirds are Keith Farrell on bass, Ger Kiely on guitar, Sarah Lynch on Violin and keys, and Stephen Kiernan on percussion.

Mundy and half of The Painbirds begin with 24 Star Hotel’s ‘Healthy’. Mundy jests that having begun quietly and softly with a “waltz”, that they’ll take it up to a notch to “foxtrot” as the rest of the band join him for ‘Addicted’. Despite his concern about his cocktail of antibiotics and Rennies, he’s in great voice. ‘I Miss the Country’ is far more powerful here than on ‘Strawberry Blood’, a song about longing for home is elevated to a paean to the passing of time, and a desire for the simplicity of youth. Prior to ‘Rescue Remedy’, Mundy invites the audience to punch the air, and to have faith that this time next year “we could all be loaded”, and that we might all also will “the bad stuff to go away”. The version tonight is as rousing as the invitation beforehand.

Warren Zevon became such a huge influence on Mundy that for a while even Dylan was overshadowed by Hunter S. Thompson’s old friend. He included Zevon’s ‘Reconsider Me’ on his most recent album Shuffle. A covers album which as the name suggests was an insight into what you would hear if you ran your fingers through his record collection. On the album it’s a duet with Gemma Hayes, but here he sings it alone. A favourite on the album, it sounds as poignant tonight.

‘Love and Confusion’ has the audience empathetically roaring the chorus. It’s followed by ‘By her Side’ which incorporates the solo from Lizzy’s ‘Boys Are Back in Town’. The band is having fun, and the atmosphere is all inclusive and celebratory. Mundy has to put his Pete Seeger hat back on for the next number; he does so in tribute to the recently departed Barney McKenna of the Dubliners. Barney was renowned as one of the world’s greatest tenor banjo and mandolin players. That can only mean one song. ‘Galway Girl’ was originally recorded by Steve Earle, with Sharon Shannon. Mundy’s own version with Sharon became a monster hit here. It was something of a double edged sword for Mundy.  It increased his audience but oft-times seemed to frustrate when audiences favoured it over his own material.  He proves tonight the best way to make your peace with it, or exorcise any annoyance, is to grab it by the scruff of the neck. They manage to bring something new to it, and the crowd jump around, belting it out word for word.

The band completely throws themselves at the mercy of the songs, and their ability to go for it is amplified by Mundy’s wild enthusiasm and desire to totally let loose, too, exemplified on ‘10,000 Miles Away (From Harm)’. He chats to his wife in the audience, and talks emotively of his two young girls, adding to the warm aura of the show. The band leaves the stage with Sarah and Mundy remaining, and ‘July’ is a little injection of summer on this wet December night.

Mundy plays two new tracks for us, the acoustic ‘Window Shopping for Fate’ and ‘Back in the Doghouse.’ Both tracks whet the appetite for his forthcoming album which may be produced by Youth (Killing Joke), the man who produced his debut Jelly Legs all those years ago. ‘Waiting for the Night to Come’ is an anthemic ode to the temptations of the after hours, something tonight’s revellers clearly understand. The set reaches a crescendo with set closer ‘To You I Bestow’, with band and audience giving it socks.

Over the years Mundy has used his platform to give a leg up to people from his locale.  Christmas eve saw him introduced to a young man called Ciaran Cooney, and after a heartfelt ‘Carpound’ kicks off the encore, Mundy invites the enthusiastic seventeen year old on stage. They are joined by drummer Binzer who has been playing with Mundy on and off for years. Crowd favourite ‘Gin and Tonic Sky’ is followed by a buoyant ‘Mexico’. Mundy is clearly enjoying sharing the stage with friends, which includes some of those that have moved on, and Ciaran looks ecstatic for the opportunity to share the mic. A friend, a poet, “the priest” they called him (on the night?) joins them for a short poem. Gavin Glass, who tours as a full time member of Lisa Hannigan’s band has released two albums of his own. He shares with Mundy a love for Americana, and he joins them on stage for a rendition of ‘Spirit in the Sky’. Some of The Chapters come back for a spirited version of Bob Dylan’s ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ and that brings the show to an energetic all inclusive close.

Tonight was a stimulating and lively performance on a night that is seasonally a quiet one, a show with a set that included much loved songs from his back catalogue while also showcasing exciting new material which augurs well for the forthcoming album. An exciting performance by a man who demonstrated why he remains one of Ireland’s best loved live acts.

More info about Mundy can be found on his official website, as well as his Facebook page.

All words by Ray Burke. More of Ray’s Louder Than War writing can be found at his author archive here.


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