- 09 Feb 19
Broadcasting World Wide From Wexford St, Ladies And Gentlemen, Please Be Upstanding For The Mighty LiR!
I’m going to assume that most if not all of us were in bands at some point, and we all probably had that one moment where we dared to think, no matter how unrealistic that thought might have been, that maybe something might happen. The problem is that the vast majority of bands are just kinda shite, and the day you realise that you’re not one of God’s special creatures is a tough auld one. Now, imagine you were actually in a really great band, and it still didn’t go your way. Watch Shimmy Marcus’ movie Good Cake Bad Cake – The Story Of LiR and wonder, slack-jawed, why LiR didn’t “make it” while lesser bands like The Cranberries – you can send the letters to the usual address - took over the world. You can see the flabbergasted heads on them all on the screen, they still don’t know either. Management? Timing? Bad luck? Bronagh Gallagher gushingly compares them to Led Zep at Madison Square Garden in one of the filmed interviews, and while she might be getting a bit carried away to be fair, I was in the crowd more than a few times back in the nineties, she’s not that far off.
To add serious insult to outrageous injury, they then got legally crucified when it fell apart. My cousin Ado, who’s in tonight, reckons this gig is still part of that settlement payment plan, although I can’t confirm this. A fucking nightmare, frankly. I hope they’re showing this movie in the various “rock schools” about the town as a not-so-gentle nudge to some of the students who really should reconsider that CAO offer of accountancy. You better be all the way in or you better get out.
It only takes about ten seconds of ‘Dog Rhythms’ which the band open with after a film clip montage – look, there’s Smiley Bolger! Ha! They’ve edited LiR’s music into Wayne’s World! – to remind all here, and it’s as full as makes no difference, how great they were/are. Robbie Malone’s busy bass locks in with Johnny Boyle’s drums, forming a bond that’s tighter than a rusted nut. Ronan Byrne and the marvellously monikered Zamo Riffman – Eamonn Griffin to his Ma – who’s subbing for the missing Colm Quearney, trade guitar riffs like they’ve been playing together for years. Visually it is Riffman who has made the most effort, sporting a fetching Hawaiian shirt and pinstripe kacks combo. The others, including singer Dave McGuinness who can regularly be spotted with a load of gladioli sticking out of his arse as the front man with the very-good-indeed Smiths Tribute band These Charming Men, are rocking the cool Dad at the parent teacher meeting sports casual look, which is as good a comportment as any for gentleman of a certain vintage to aim at. Disappointingly, there’s not a Celtic filigreed white bell bottom (© Alan Corr) to be seen, although Johnny Boyle appears to have stolen Larry Mullen’s stage clothes from the War tour. Boyle’s been knocking around for a long time now – The Frames and PictureHouse, as well as LiR – so even a conservative estimate must put his age at around 107 but he still looks about 23. What a complete bastard he truly is.
We’re here to celebrate Magico Magico!, the band’s debut album that came out in two different configurations in 1993 and 1994, which, if anything, sounds better now than it did then. It tapped into the prevailing trends of the time with its combination of funk rhythms by way of Manchester and the power of the tastier end of what was becoming known as grunge from America. ‘Traveller’ is a good example, Malone’s bass does the work behind the verses before the big guitar clang comes in for the chorus. McGuinness consults the lyric book for a prompt during the dreamy ‘Not To Be Overlooked’ which is fair enough, it’s been a while. The lyric’s question “Is there another world-wide dream?” and the title that follows, ‘Some Folk Are Truly Evil’ could, in retrospect, be seen as omens for what was to happen to the band, but let’s leave it where it lies.
‘3 Legged Guy’ – the code name Sam Snort still goes by in Morocco - has handsome Dave shaking the tambourine over the crowd, and ‘The House Of Song’ goes full ‘Kashmir’ with added violin, before we get the big hit that never was, ‘In A Day’, a blue-lit McGuinness urging the crowd on to join him on the chorus. Once the beguiling waltz of ‘Two Worlds’ is done - kudos for the wah-wah/keyboard coda breakdown, and yes, it is good to see Dave Hopkins - he’s at it again with his acoustic led ‘Good Cake, Bad Cake’ which the violin runs away with. The knockout one-two combination of ‘New Song’ and ‘In The Parlour’ close out the main set. The climbing riff of the former and the dark clavinet intro of the latter allow the band to stretch out and Ireland hasn’t produced many bands better at finding the pocket, getting into it, and staying there, as this lot. Once the groove gets going they are as ferocious live as their reputation suggests. McGuinness, who's in fine voice throughout, as always, is throwing shapes and howling, and why wouldn't he? This is a performance to be justifiably proud of.
The encore starts with a blink and you’ve missed it acoustic dittette from McGuinness, who then brings on his pal Barry O’Brien to help out. By the time they get to ‘Chapter One’ the band - a pulsing, twisty-turny monster - are just showing off. Byrne and Riffman are particularly impressive, but it’s a band melding together into one sinuous, lithe and supple thing that really impresses. The crowd take over during the still epic ‘Halcyon Days’ and they finish with the inevitable ‘There Are More Things’ from the fucking gas I Went Down movie, the song that nearly gave them a second bite at the cherry before things went arseways yet again. You know what? Don’t watch the movie, it’s too upsetting. If ever there was a band who were robbed, and that the world was robbed of, it’s LiR. As the late George Byrne used to say about The Blades, another truly fantastic Irish band that never got their due, being great will have to be it own reward (I’m wildly paraphrasing, but he said something like that). LiR are great. The rest of the world missed a trick there.