Music Review - APE, McGrory’s, Culdaff, featuring Velvet Alibi, Great White Lies and Lauren Bird

Music Review - APE, McGrory’s, Culdaff, featuring Velvet Alibi, Great White Lies and Lauren Bird
Culdaff’s reputation as a stronghold of Donegal’s music scene does not need highlighted, but it has been further enhanced by the addition of a night dedicated to the promotion of emerging talent from the north west and further afield.

Culdaff’s reputation as a stronghold of Donegal’s music scene does not need highlighted, but it has been further enhanced by the addition of a night dedicated to the promotion of emerging talent from the north west and further afield.

Culdaff’s reputation as a stronghold of Donegal’s music scene does not need highlighted, but it has been further enhanced by the addition of a night dedicated to the promotion of emerging talent from the north west and further afield.

APE looks set to become a regular event at McGrory’s and its debut night set the bar high in terms of quality of the performances and the diversity of the performers on show.

It was a night that acts as a reminder of the quality of musicians living and performing in Donegal and the north west.

The evening seamlessly goes up the gears from the folk of Lauren Bird, though the jazz-tinged pop of Great White Lies and finally to the juggernaut of sound produced by the 11-piece Velvet Alibi.

Singer Lauren Bird opens the night with a set of uplifting, thoughtful songs which showcase her original material.

‘Good Bye, Good Luck’ showcases her talent for writing honest and personal songs about relationships and heartbreak, set to appealing melodies.

Her version of Brian Wilson’s ‘God Only Knows’ leaves a big impression.

Great White Lies is the vehicle for the talents of Inishowen musician Siobhán Shiels, the band’s lead singer and song writer, as well as the driving force behind APE.

An eponymous self-released EP which was released last year has earned the band a song-writing award.

The crisp, pop songs are affectionately clasped by Shiels’ soothing voice and display the skill and originality of the writing.

The diversity in the compositions and the adaptability of the band sees the set moving from up-beat numbers such as the opener ‘Humble Pancake’ to ballads such as the touching ‘Give Anything’, where the lead singer displays her vocal versatility.

The five-piece creates a wholesome, full sound that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Peter Doherty’s upright bass contributes to the jazz sensibilities and his bowing adds depth to the sound.

Neil Burn’s pristine keyboard playing and backing vocals from Ruth McCartney compliment an original and complete sound, which is all fronted by Shiel’s relaxed air of confidence.

The up-tempo ‘Sunday Shapes’, Shiel’s take on the morning after the night before experience, and the infectiously lively ‘Scary Things’, for which the band picked up the LovetoSING Undiscovered competition for Best Original Song, bring the first dancers of the night to the floor.

The set is made up mostly of original numbers but it is sprinkled with covers; one by Magnetic Fields, one from Regina Spektor and a beautiful a cappella rendition of Alt J’s ‘Interlude 1’ by Shiels and McCartney which receives the attention it demands.

Velvet Alibi are a very different beast. APE is just the fourth venture out for the band whose members are spread between Derry and across north Donegal.

Founded last year, two rapturously-received appearances at The Revelry in Letterkenny have started a buzz about the group, which is described by founders Anna Nolan and Rohan Armstrong as a funk orchestra.

The scale of band displays a courage and ambition which is matched by the ability to deliver a truly refreshing live experience. Velvet Alibi is a juggernaut of rhythm, funk, soul, passion and energy.

The band roll out a set entirely made up of original numbers written by lead singer Nolan and bassist Armstrong.

A three-piece brass section, two backing singers, two guitarists, keys and percussion add a sound a small orchestra would be proud of.

Yet with so much going, the power and passion of Nolan’s singing means she is never in fear of being overshadowed by the platoon of musicians around her.

The reggae-infused ‘Don’t Play With Fire’, ‘Leave This Town’ and ‘Dance Away’ are highlights in an eclectic show. The pace hardly lets up and Velvet Alibi deliver a set that illuminates the musical curiosity of the song-writing. The ensemble that make up the band features familiar faces to Donegal music fans including Orlaith Gilcreest (Calamity Gin) on saxophone, Neil Burns (Comrade Hat), again, and Eoghan Holland (Captain A and The Commercial Monsters) on guitar. Gary Raymond, whose talents as a percussionist are shared with The Henry Girls and Great White Lies, also makes an appearance.

Nolan has a dusky, passionate timbre which she brings to songs that are influenced by funk, disco, rock and reggae, without nailing their colours to any one generic mast.

The response in Culdaff is the same the band has received everywhere else to date and by this point Nolan’s occasional invitations to potential dancers are no longer needed.

The finale, ‘Into the Wild’ is a heady combustion of rhythm and sound which verges on dance music and leaves the heaving dance floor looking for more.

http://laurenbirdmusic.com/

http://www.greatwhiteliesmusic.com/

http://velvetalibi.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Velvet-Alibi/1472048173066720