Canceled shows are a way of life these days and you never know if the show will be scheduled at a later date or just slated completely. When this strikes a band who flies overseas to play shows here, all bets are off as to whether or not the show will occur as another level or two of logistical challenges are loaded into the equation. Thankfully the pieces lined up nicely to move the April show to October, when the band was wrapping up a second leg of their American tour. Boston is certainly a friendly haven to Irish bands and it’s a big step up venue-wise from their 2019 show at Great Scott to the somewhat cavernous House of Blues (due to demand, this show was moved from the originally booked Paradise; blessings upon us all).
Striding on stage and tossing red roses into the crowd, Grian Chatten and crew immediately stormed into a trio of older material and the scene was set. Ireland has a well-known history for erudite writers, and while Chatten’s vocal range is limited (sometimes reminding me of Dave Callahan of The Wolfhounds/Moonshake) he makes up for it by tapping into that vaunted storytelling tradition. I won’t call him the next Mark E Smith yet (and let’s be honest, there will never be another brilliantly cantankerous bastard like Smith again) but the themes of frustration and love and hope are presented with his own perspectives. “I was towelled up to the waist while you were fresh from the confession” from “Hurricane Laughter” is a pretty gripping way to start a song!
Now that the lads are three records deep, gone are the days where they have to lean hard on the same material for each show. I’d seen them twice in 2019 in their native city of Dublin when they only had one record out and one in the works, and while I wouldn’t say Skinty Fia represents any marked departure from their sound, it’s nice to broaden their options. With those expanded options though, missing “The Lotts” or “You Said” for a generic monotonic shouter such as “Too Real” felt like a miss. The momentum recovered though as “Jackie Down The Line” is a really catchy shuffle and Chatten’s descending vocal line is his best earworm yet. The encore went down a stormer; “Boys In The Better Land” is their de facto anthem and “I Love You” was a perfect way to close it. Both were mini tour de forces, blasts of post-punk energy from the band as Chatten paced countless loops on the stage, up and off his floor wedge.
Wunderhorse were the hand-picked openers for this leg, fronted by Jacob Slater. The band looked young enough for this to be their first foray into music but Slater was previously in Dear Pretties and has shifted gears a bit sound-wise. You didn’t need eagle vision to spot his sleeve and the influences attached, with a lot of mid ’90s alt-bands and their big guitars apparent. Fans of Smashing Pumpkins, Bush and Radiohead could find common ground and the band’s energy level never flagged.
Primarily based in Boston, Massachusetts, Tim Bugbee is no stranger to traveling throughout the country or overseas to capture the best live music photos.