Given that Irish newbies Kodaline are hotly-tipped this year, they certainly seem to struggle grabbing the attention of an audience. Probably off the back of their BBC Sound Of 2013 long list appearance, Fibbers, the first date of this short UK sojourn, is packed. Yet it’s not until four songs in, after the band have sheepishly shuffled onstage and have run through three tracks from their forthcoming debut long-player, that everyone takes notice. It seems their less studious interpretation of Villagers’ folkiest moments (apart from opener “Lose Your Mind”, which almost channels the ghost of Kula Shaker into proceedings) doesn’t have the same impact live as it does on the radio.
That fourth song, however, is “High Hopes”, the forthcoming, alt-ballad single that will soon become their first big hit. It’s a massive-sounding tune, leading from subtle, understated verses to choruses that sound like a sexier Embrace. Having grabbed the crowd’s attention, the rest of the 40-minute set feels like a triumph. “It All Comes Down To You” is slower, and prompts young couples to hold hands and beardy blokes to gaze into their plastic beer cups. And when their debut album, “In A Perfect World”, drops this March, it’ll be tracks like “The Answer” that critics will be gushing about. Folky, acoustic and with heart firmly on sleeve, it may be exactly the sort of thing you’d expect from a band who come from Dublin and have lyrics like “loneliness is worst of all, when you got no one else to call” – but like the first Guinness of the night, it sure does hit the spot.
“All I Want” rounds off the evening, provoking a mass singalong and, believe it or not, a burst of confidence from frontman Steven Garrigan. As he finds his voice, which is then drowned out by several hundred Kodaline converts, you realise it’s not always just bombast and balls that make great live acts. You actually have to have the tunes as well. The time it took Fibbers to really get into this gig may suggest Kodaline’s album will be a hit-and-miss affair. Let’s hope not.
(The featured pictures are from a London show as non where available from this event)