- 19 Feb 20
Martin McDonnell's debut show proves the young singer can hold his own.
It would be remiss of me to say that I expected the crowd Martin McDonnell would turn out last night at Whelan's. I knew the gig had been upgraded to the main room from Upstairs, but how many people can you possibly draw from three singles and a few busking sessions? Many, as it happens. The packed room is lively, and it's plain to see that McDonnell will indeed exceed more expectations than my own.
On paper, the singer-songwriter looks like any other Dubliner you might see carting a guitar to Grafton Street. In person, McDonnell is anything but ordinary. He walks on stage to an uproarious cheer, engaging the crowd from the get-go with conversational banter. After a song about his first heartbreak and one as-yet untitled track about his father, he launches into a Queen mashup. Yes, you read that right: 'Bohemian Rhapsody' and 'I Want To Break Free', complete with Freddie Mercury's vocalisation from the Live Aid show. McDonnell's range is astonishing, a fact further highlighted by another cover – this time Aha's 'Take On Me'. He barely breaks a sweat on that dizzying high note.
Support act Twins Katie and Aoife make a return to the stage to join McDonnell for his latest single 'Leaves Me Wanting More', before he launches into an unreleased, trad-inspired tune called 'Give It Over'. He is hyper-confident – perhaps an attempt to hide nerves, although it seems more likely that he just knows exactly how good he sounds.
Another unreleased song, about his mother's battle with breast cancer, takes the show in an emotional turn before McDonnell is joined by a full band to perform a guitar-heavy cover of 'House Of The Rising Sun'.
There are some artists you need to see live in order to fully understand, and I believe Martin McDonnell is one of them. As far as debut shows go, this is one for the books.