- 01 Jan 20
The New Year’s Countdown Concert at the Custom House Quay has proven itself to be a great spotlight for homegrown musicians.
It has given many the chance to perform in front of large crowds of Dubliners and tourists alike, both looking to close their year with a bang.
Given this time around the festival wasn’t just marking a new year but a new decade, the pressure was on for NYF Dublin to put on a show worthy of saying sayonara to the 2010s and hello to the roaring twenties. Thankfully, a brilliant bunch of special guests – ranging from newcomers to established acts to legends – were on hand to provide some bangers, at least until the real fireworks burst in the night sky above attendees as the clock struck midnight.
As the masses crowd into the venue along the Liffey quay, country pop singer Lisa McHugh is first to take to the stage. Born in Glasgow but based in Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh, she sounds like Dolly Parton with a Scottish twang and has tunes which evoke other country stars turned pop sensations such as Taylor Swift (‘Country Mile’) and Shania Twain (‘Watch Me’). She cements comparisons to the latter with a lovely cover of ‘You’re Still the One’ which has audiences singing raucously along. Indeed, its final lines: ‘I’m so glad we made it / look how far we’ve come, my baby,’ resonate on the final night of the decade.
Next up is Dubliner and rising pop star Aimee who people will be hearing more about in the future. She doesn’t have many singles to her name yet, only her debut ‘Don’t Bother’ and follow-up ‘Break Me’ - both catchy, well-written and empowering. That said, the as of yet unreleased tracks she plays from her upcoming EP make it sound like her new release will be something special. ‘Naked’ combines pounding beats with dreamy 80's-esque synths to create a modern sound.
Meanwhile, Aimee shows her versatility with ‘What My Mama Gave Me’, a song in the flesh which features elements of hip-hop, R&B and even samba. The true stand out, however, is the final track of her set and upcoming single ‘Don’t Call Me Pretty.’ Along with its funk inspired chorus, the singer hits such high notes on the song that, were I not to have seen her do so live, I would have believed them to have been auto-tuned. High praise indeed.
From newcomers to legends, Northern Irish rockers Ash take to the stage just over 25 years after their first release – 1994’s Trailer. Bursting onto the scene with fan favourite ‘A Life Less Ordinary’, the band delivers a hit laden set filled with the type of loud, fast-paced, guitar driven rock you just want hooked into your veins. The gnarly wailing riffs of ‘Burn Baby Burn’, ‘Girl from Mars’, ‘Kung Fu’ and ‘Orpheus’ have lost none of their youthful energy despite their age. Meanwhile, Ash’s latest album Islands’ propulsive ear worm of a lead single ‘Buzzkill’ fits nicely amongst the classics, as does their timely cover of U2’s ‘New Year’s Day’. Couple the above with a spine tingling rendition of their stadium anthem ‘Shining Light’ and you are reminded why you fell in love with the Downpatrick rockers in the first place.
Keeping momentum high as the clock inches closer to midnight are headliners Walking on Cars. After months of touring to promote their 2019 record Colours, the group has performing live down to a fine art, delivering a set full of belters as well as spectacle. The colourful warm synths of ‘Too Emotional’ raise spirits even further, while ‘Two Stones’ has audiences stomping along to its infectious driving beat.
While frontman Patrick Sheehy deserves a ton of praise for both his deep raspy timbre and his serious dance moves (particularly on opener ‘Ship Goes Down’), pianist Sorcha Durham deserves highlighting too. This is thanks to her heavenly backing vocals on ‘One Last Dance’ and her stellar keyboard work on ‘Two Straight Lines’. After playing a handful of their set, the band announces it's 30 seconds to midnight. As a countdown clock is projected through laser lights onto a neighbouring building, attendees chant from 10 to zero together – the feeling of community palpable. The new decade is greeted with loud cheers, partners kissing their significant others, the Countdown Concert’s acts returning to the stage for a brief rendition of ‘Auld Lang Syne’ and a stunning firework, fire ball and laser light show painting the Dublin City sky bright with colour. Walking on Cars then return with ‘Speeding Cars’, before performing a string of their top singles back to back. Finishing with the swaggering glam rock of ‘Monster’ and a final bang of confetti to shower their adoring crowd, the concert is complete.
With the new decade started in style, I hope the 2020s will be filled with musical experiences like last night.