- 28 Oct 18
The sad loss of promoter John Reynolds was an unbelievably difficult backdrop, but the old maxim 'The show must go on' applied and, on its first day, Metropolis provided wonderful musical highlights to savour
"This is bittersweet for me because I haven't been here since I lost the Young Scientist Award in '91," said the typically hilarious MC David O'Doherty, kicking off Metropolis 2018.
It was bittersweet for everyone. The previous day had seen the terrible news of the loss of the man behind Metropolis, John Reynolds, who had died suddenly. It is a tribute to everyone concerned that the show was kept on the road, and that the gig went ahead. A huge congratulations to the whole team is in order.
The day opened with Booka Brass on the main stage delivering their unique brand of modern jazz. While not radically different to the show they gave at this year's All Together Now festival, it is a joy to watch the band take listeners on a musical odyssey, crafting modern, catchy hooks with old school instruments.
Next up was Welsh musician Gwenno, delivering atmospheric, folky electro pop in Cornish and Welsh. Despite the obvious 'nicheness' – is that a word? – of her music, audiences were enraptured by the singer's hypnotic stage movements, which recalled Kate Bush. Also, her banter with the crowd was quirkily charming, translating the Cornish poetry that inspires her into English: "If there is cheese, bring it / if there isn't, bring what there is."
Many in attendance were wearing hats and scarves: winter had arrived.
Thankfully, the Industries Hall was suitably warm. The power of the performance by the Kerry alt-folk musician Junior Brother was impressive: his idiosyncratic guitar, foot-tambourine playing and witty lyrics about rural Ireland made you want to hear more.
He was sandwiched between the otherworldly Gwenno and David Keenan who followed him in Industries Hall. The 23-year-old Dundalk native gripped audiences with his angry Bob Dylan-esque ballads 'Evidence of Living' and 'Postcards From Catalonia', as well as his stream-of-consciousness-esque lyrics on 'James Dean', imagining the Hollywood actor alive and well, and working for Irish rail.
Singing in his trademark style, Keenan dedicated a naked, haunting rendition of Leonard Cohen's 'So Long, Marianne' to John Reynolds, founder of POD Concerts. "We wouldn't be here laughing, sharing stories and drinking if it wasn't for one man," said Keenan. The legendary promoter would have been proud.
Earlier this summer, English trio Friendly Fires told Hot Press their sun-drenched sound is an act of escapism from their cold home country. And there was no mistaking the warmth of tunes like 'Hawaiian Air', 'Jump in the Pool' and 'Love Like Waves'; coupled with lead singer Ed McFarlane's hot dance moves, they warmed the room in style. The band also played a handful of tracks from their eagerly awaited new album, including 'Tijuana' and 'Can't Wait Forever', all of which went down a tropical storm.
This heat radiated into closing act Villagers' set. Known for delicate, quietly dark ballads, it's amazing how confident the band were as headliners. Tracks like 'Becoming a Jackal' and 'Hot Scary Summer' felt fleshed out live, backed by faster drums and a Mariachi-esque brass band. That said, audiences were engrossed even during the quieter moments, including the haunting 'Love Came With All That it Brings'; powerful closer 'Nothing Arrived'; and a stirring rendition of 'Courage', also dedicated to Reynolds.
In difficult circumstances for all, Day 1 of Metropolis 2018 was a triumph. And the music wasn't half bad too.