- 29 Jun 15
A smouldering set on a hot summer night.
Gemma Hayes takes the stage in stark black and white, greeted by excited applause – there’s not an inch to spare in the venue. This may be the only occasion on which the Tipperary star has uttered the phrase “Let’s get hot and sweaty together!” to an audience.
‘Dreamt You Were Fine’, kicks off the set, lulling the audience in with Hayes’ voice and guitar before the rest of the band comes tumbling in propelled by big rolling drums. They may have only played eight shows together but Hayes’ backing band has already coalesced into an impressive unit. ‘Joy’ benefits from the full band treatment; the repeated closing refrain of “As long as I could see you” has the rapt audience mouthing the words quietly back to the singer.
The breathtaking four-part harmonies of ‘Making My Way’ are an early highlight preceding an airing of, ‘Back Of My Hand’ and ‘Shock To The System’. The latter’s double bass groove and tribal drumming sees the loyal crowd moving, singing and, in the quieter moments, joining in with well rehearsed hand-claps.
‘Palamino’, is introduced as “My own version of ‘My Lovely Horse’, and already appears to be quite the fan-favourite. Hayes is effusive about her love for the venue, “you can’t beat Whelan’s with a big stick” she enthuses. Each song comes with a story, the most endearing of which about what necessitated her move back from LA – the American tendency to take the egg yoke out of their omelettes and her own inability to relate to pool-party models who couldn't go swimming because their diamante encrusted swim-suits were dry clean only.
‘Happy Sad’ ratchets up the energy before Hayes skillfully brings it all to a halt with new track ‘To Be Your Honey’ – you could hear a pin drop if it wasn’t for the clinking glasses.
Before concluding the set with a rousing rendition of ‘There’s Only Love’, from Let It Break, Hayes jokes, “Just for tradition we’ll get off stage after this one but don’t let me down!” She quickly returns with support act Joe Chester for a beautiful version of his ‘Safe Place To Hide’.
A stunning solo rendition of Jackson Browne’s ‘These Days’ is made all the more intimate by the sight of her bandmates standing patiently on-stage. It’s a moment that is hard to top but the frenetic guitar of ‘Let A Good Thing Go’ leaves the audience on a high, sweaty and all the more enamoured with the Ballyporeen beauty.