Choice Music Prize live at Vicar St., Dublin
Anne Marie Conlon, 26 Mar 2009
As a live spectacle, the Choice Music Prize is a strange concept. It assembles some of the best acts in Ireland under one roof, inviting each to deliver a three song set to a packed crowd. By way of introduction, each performance is preceeded by a video projection, giving the event a very stop/start feel. And in the interest of fairnesss, the four acts who aren’t performing are also visually represented, with overlong video interviews testing the audience’s patience.
Still, the bill is undeniably strong – Jape, Messiah J & The Expert, Mick Flannery, Halfset, R.S.A.G. and Fight Like Apes all pack as much punch as they can into their short stage time. This works better for some than others, as one gets the feeling the crowd aren’t quite warmed up for opening act – and eventual winner! – Jape, although ‘I Was A Man’ and the excellent ‘Shut Me Down’ get a warm reception. Messiah J & The Expert also seem to get less back from the seated crowd than they’d like. No matter, they knock out closing number ‘Jean Is Planning An Escape’ with enough energy to win over any doubters.
Next up, Cork’s Mick Flannery was perhaps the first to completely capture our attention, bringing a hush to the somewhat chatty crowd with quiet piano ballad ‘Safety Rope’, before joining a full band to build to a beautiful country-tinged crescendo.
The quiet meanderings of Halfset might be more suited to record, or maybe there was too much excitement in the room for us to commit to this kind of performance. In contrast, then, Kilkenny drummer Jeremy Hickey was exactly what the crowd wanted. Performing under the R.S.A.G. moniker, Hickey plays drums and sings along to samples, with visuals provided by Paul Mahon. His much-hyped Organic Sampler album – coupled with the fact that he rarely plays live – meant that this was the act that everyone was looking forward to. And he didn’t disappoint, banging out what felt almost like one long, ever-changing track to huge cheers and applause.
Fight Like Apes had the pleasure of closing the evening, presenting us with suitably frenzied version of ‘Jake Summers’ and ‘Battlestations’.
Not long then till we’re told about our winner, Mr Richie Egan himself. Maybe not the best live act on the night, but on the strength of his amazing Ritual album, no man deserves it more.