Kodaline At 3Arena – Review
If there’s one thing the Irish public are particularly good at, its supporting their own. The gig-going population in this country have always been supportive of home-grown Irish musicians and, looking over the past year in Irish music, this shows little sign of slowing down. Rising stars Walking On Cars and Gavin James have been selling out shows all over country for the last few years despite having had no full album releases to their name, Dublin acoustic rockers The Coronas sold out the 3Arena at the beginning of the year despite their limited international profile, and tickets for U2’s four hometown shows last month were gone within minutes. Having become one of Irish music’s biggest success stories of the decade, all tickets for Kodaline’s brace of 3Arena shows were quickly snapped up on the day of sale. The Swords foursome have seen their popularity skyrocket over the past three years both domestically and internationally and this double sell out, following their summer sellout at Kilmainham, further illustrates their pulling power. This year’s Coming Up For Air album was slightly disjointed, but still crammed with terrific songs, and these hometown shows serve as something of a victory lap to close another fantastic year.
Following a strong support line-up consisting of the soon to be huge Little Hours and English singer-songwriter Gabrielle Aplin, the lights dim to manic screams from the packed crowd. Opening the show with the now slightly overused trick of covering the band with a black curtain which drops to reveal the foursome, they launch into the electro-rock chug of recent single ‘Ready’, one of their more uptempo moments before following up with the chilled folk-infused nostalgia of ‘Way Back When’. 2014 single ‘One Day’ was a radio smash upon its release which means it gets the full singalong treatment here, with frontman Steve Garrigan belting out those hard to reach chorus notes with gusto. While Kodaline specialise in radio-friendly acoustic rock, they really shine when they push the boat out and experiment with their sound. The performance of album track ‘Lost’ is one of the real standouts tonight, with a throbbing synth line, some psychedelic guitar work and a wonderful Muse-like chorus. Likewise, ‘Autopilot’ takes their radio-friendly singalong template and adds interesting new elements, with an Arabian-tinged percussion loop combined with huge choir-like vocals.
At times tonight, it feels like being at a One Direction show due to band’s large female fanbase constantly taking camera phone pictures and shrieking at every word uttered by the band. The overused shouts of “Dubliiiiin” from the stage don’t help matters. However, all is forgiven when the piano intro of Irish number 1 single ‘High Hopes’ sends the screaming decibels through the roof. Despite its near constant radio play, the song never seems to date, showing the hallmarks of a true classic and you get the feeling it will stay part of the band’s setlist for many more years to come. Once the opening riff of the summery ‘Brand New Day’ sounds out, you realise that the band have a killer back catalogue for an act only two albums in. In the streaming age where music fans are constantly told that albums are dead, Kodaline buck the trend by releasing bodies of work that keep the filler to a minimum and judging by tonight’s crowd, their audience have listened to their releases in full rather than just cherry picking the hits. Almost everything played tonight could easily slot on to daytime radio playlists: ‘Coming Alive’, ‘All Comes Down’ ‘Play The Game’ and ‘Autopilot’ all sound like international hits despite never being singles. One of those that has been given a single release, the mandolin-led ‘Love Like This’, has become a true festival anthem over the past few years and tonight it adds a welcome change of pace to the show. The high point of tonight’s performance comes in the form of album track ‘Play The Game’. Led by guitarist Mark Prendergast’s jagged fuzz riff, it shows how spectacular a band Kodaline can be when they decide to rock out, and its melodic pre-chorus of ‘I don’t wanna be a pretender, I just wanna be me’ could be interpreted as a response to the legions of critics who have lined up to slate the band since their arrival on the scene.
In terms of production, tonight’s show is a markedly more lavish affair than previous shows, with numerous video screens flanking the band and an array of strobe lights which bring many of tonight’s songs to life. Last year’s taster single ‘Honest’ showcases a harder edge to the band with a gargantuan chorus which sounds perfectly at home in the vast arena surroundings. Closing their main set with beautiful new single ‘Love Will Set You Free’, it evokes one of the biggest cheers of the night. No matter what style or sound is the current musical trend whether dubstep, disco, or EDM, great melodic songs like this will never go out of fashion and tonight’s performance, aided by three female backing singers, is a truly rousing closer.
Returning to the stage for a ramshackle but charming cover of The Pogues Christmas classic ‘Fairytale Of New York’, the band are aided by both support acts, folk-rock label mates Hudson Taylor, and Lethal Dialect collaborator Jess Kavanagh who steals the show with an excellent take on Kirsty McColl’s character in the song. Closing with the now ubiquitous ‘All I Want’, one of the most gorgeously melodic songs to come from these shores, its emotional epic guitar solo outro sees the Dublin four piece finish in emphatic style. While they may not yet be naturally bona fide arena stars (tonight’s show isn’t a patch on U2’s stadium rock masterclass here last month), you get the feeling that it really is only a matter of time before they join their idols in music’s premier league. Kodaline are a band on the up with a natural gift for composing songs which connect on a large scale, and given the success of the band’s two albums thus far, combined with the rapid sell out of these shows, they will be confidently glancing over the Liffey at the Aviva Stadium as a potential venue to play after the release of album number three.