Gig Review and Photos by Dawn
Whether it's down to their previous gigs in the
city, the publicity surrounding their debut album (released only
five days earlier) or just sheer curiosity, a hell of a lot of people
have ventured out of the bar and crammed themselves into the modestly
sized Cockpit venue when Hal take to the stage in support of Brendan
Beside the current, endless production line of cloned guitar bands
clinging desperately to their definite articles, Hal are a breath
of fresh air. Like their equally classy labelmates Delays and The
Magic Numbers, what makes these Irish boys so instantly captivating
is their distinctive sound. Lustrous guitars, pianos, harmonicas
and organs hinting unmistakably at the band's retro influences contrast
starkly with wonderfully striking rhythms, stirring basslines and
bursts of energetic electronica; slices of indie, country, rock
and Sixties summer sunshine are complemented by frontman Dave's
potent voice and bassist brother Paul's heartbreakingly beautiful
Although on the whole complimentary,
one review of Hal's debut LP implied it a little too polished and
mourned the loss of some of Dave's 'whoa-oh's from early demos.
Here, however, such vocal gymnastics remain as the band clearly
revel in the freedom of performing - to the extent that they confidently
stick to the tried and tested live renditions of songs rather than
feeling obliged to play their album counterparts. For the most part,
it's a wise choice; impressive as their recordings are, the live
versions of songs such as Play the Hits and Slow Down
prove to be still more dazzling.
And while Dave focuses intently on the job in hand,
it's impossible not to get caught up in the enthusiasm of those
around him, particularly ever-smiling sibling Paul
and drummer Steven - a man so cheerful he must
surely have been smiling since the moment he was born. Judging by
tonight's rapturous reception, and armed with songs as summery as
theirs, it must surely be only be a matter of time before the rest
of the world realises just why we ought to hail the harmonies and
happiness of Hal.
Many thanks to Alex and to Paul.
Hal play their own tour in May - visit www.halmusic.com
for more details.
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