The Coronas At The Olympia Theatre – Review
Back in town for what has become their annual run of Christmas shows, this weekend’s triple-header of gigs in the Olympia Theatre sees The Coronas return to a venue they outgrew many years ago. While previous Dublin gigs having seen the band sell out the 3Arena and stage a huge celebratory outdoor show in Kilmainham (with another already booked for next summer), tonight affords fans a chance to see the band up close and personal once again. Emerging when the Irish music scene was somewhat less prosperous than at present, the Terenure 4-piece have been unable to replicate any of their homeland success abroad thus far. Nevertheless, the band have demonstrated extraordinary staying power, and by putting their heads down and making increasingly better albums since their 2007 debut Heroes Or Ghosts, they have built up a fiercely passionate and loyal fanbase. 2014’s The Long Way was their most rounded and complete album to date, devoid of filler and stuffed with songs that soar when played live. But despite mass radio play, giant gigs and a string of hit singles at home, critical praise has always eluded the band so there remains a healthy element of having something to prove with every live show.
Having spent the latter half of 2016 writing the songs for their as-yet-untitled fifth album, it may have been reasonable to expect some live performance rustiness. However the band hit the ground running, and opener ‘Heroes Or Ghosts’ is greeted like the beginning of the national anthem at a football game, with every voice in the venue joining in. Performed solo as the rest of the band amble on stage midway through, the audience does all the work before frontman Danny O’Reilly breaks into an ‘as gaeilge’ rendition of the final chorus. The full-band show kicks into gear with ‘Get Loose’, featuring the same type of bouncy guitars that made The 1975’s mega hit ‘Chocolate’ such a radio staple. ‘How This Goes’, one of the band’s strongest singles so far (even if the pre-chorus backing vocals veer perilously close to The Vengaboys ‘Boom Boom Boom Boom’) features a stadium-sized guitar solo and a chorus built for much larger rooms than tonight’s theatre setting. Showing their versatility by slowing things right down, piano ballads ‘Warm’ and ‘Someone Else’s Hands’, both from 2009 album Tony Was An Ex-Con, get the now customary singalong treatment.
Built around a garage rock riff, single ‘Just Like That’ is a surprisingly rambunctious affair, with clattering drums and hook-laden guitar licks showing an unheralded indie rock side to the band without sacrificing any of their catchy melodic qualities. It becomes clear that many of tonight’s highlights come when the band raise the BPM and crack up the volume which is a pleasant surprise for an act regularly (and unfairly) maligned for their supposed MOR stylings. Lead guitarist Dave McPhillips takes centre stage for the folky ‘Tell Me Again’, assuming lead vocal duties and sounding rather like lead vocalist Danny O’Reilly in the process, while ‘Dreaming Again’ has a distinctly Irish singalong quality. Special praise must go to the impeccable sound mix tonight. While The Olympia rarely has any issues with sound, every element of every song tonight is crystal clear which is pivotal to densely produced songs like the effervescent indie-pop of ‘All The Others’ and sprawling ballad ‘The Long Way’.
Returning to the stage, the band encore with breakthrough hit ‘San Diego Song’ before wrapping up the night with ‘Mark My Words’, as its rapidly expanding outro section fills every corner of the venue. To paraphrase the band themselves, it’s taken ‘a lot of time and a little bit of luck’ but tonight The Coronas took their rightful place amongst Ireland’s very best live bands. Even if they never find the international success they crave, they’ll always have an adoring audience here to come home to.