Raglans – Whelan’s (1st December 2012)
As you might have already read, Raglans are a band that pretty much made my summer. Saturday night marked my ninth gig after they had been on a hiatus of sorts, and whilst I was excited, I was also incredibly apprehensive.
Amelia, I hear you say, you’ve seen them eight times, why on Earth should you feel so uneasy? Well, you see, over the last few months Raglans have undergone a personnel change; guitarist/mandolin virtuoso Liam Morrow has been replaced with Trap Door front man Sean O’Brien. Now, as I tried my best to explain to him after the gig, I wasn’t doubting his proficiency as a musician, but rather his fit for Raglans as an entity.
Essentially, Trap Door are a little bit different to Raglans, and when I say a little, I mean a lot. Whilst Raglans employ guitars, the aforementioned mandolin, and then drums, bass and vocal harmony, Trap Door are a kind of hip-hop/ska ensemble. Now, I try to be as open minded about music as I can—I spent far too many years listening exclusively to rock and roll pre-dating the late seventies—but this really is the kind of music that I just can’t get my head around.
I have a theory for why, as well. Simply put, I’m not very cool. I mean, I wear fur coats, shoes adorned with cat-print tapestry and collared shirts patterned with ponies… I’m hardly a candidate for Ireland’s Next Top Gangster.
No, it’s a genre that pretty much goes straight over my head, and so, as we headed for Whelan’s, I had to resign myself to the fact that perhaps my love affair with Raglans was destined to be little more than a summer fling…
The support acts were a very strange combination; first up were an English outfit called Echotape (Stylised with an upside-down T) who were very alternative. Skinny jeans everywhere, and I mean everywhere. The music was totally inoffensive but nonetheless they just weren’t my cup of tea. Alas, if you’re a fan of the lads, you’ll have to cross the sea to catch them as they were only here for a few days, but I’m sure they’ll be back soon enough!
Next up was a solo set from Stefan Murphy, lead singer from a superb Dublin band called The Mighty Stef. It was actually my first opportunity to catch one of their gigs as I always seem to be missing them, and I was certainly not disappointed! They’re playing their last Irish show until they’ve finished the next record this Saturday at Arthur’s on Thomas Street for a mere €6, so get yourself down there for eight o’clock for a night of fantastic Irish rock ‘n’ roll.
It was thus sometime after ten when Raglans took to the stage, and there’s not a doubt in my mind that you could have heard the audience’s roars from halfway down Wexford Street! The Raglads had clearly been missed, and they were determined not to disappoint. Making the brave move to open with a brand new track, Natives, the sound was decidedly different, but bloody hell were they hell-bent on making it work.
A barrage of audience favourites including Down and The Man From Glasgow shattered any of my remaining insecurities and drove the house into unequivocal hysteria; the singing was deafening, the dancing deranged and the countless shirtless crowd surfers? Well they were just plain dangerous! (My sincerest apologies to the fella we dropped, I’m sure the alcohol softened the blow…)
Other new songs such as the upbeat Morning, Morning managed to captivate the audience fairly quickly as admirable attempts were made to sing along little more than a verse or two in.
High Road, the fantastic unrecorded treasure which I’ve spoken about before was probably the most surprising of the night. Thanks to an excellent Havagawk-produced music video—which garnered well over three-thousand views shortly after hitting the web—nearly everyone in the room was belting out the words together in perfect harmony.
Nevertheless, the highlight for me was definitely Sand In My Pockets. It’s probably still my favourite Raglans song, and since it’s not really played too often, those opening chords never fail to put a smile on my face.
It was the encore, though, which reminded me of Liam’s absence the most. As the band launched into Digging Holes, dare I say it, the mandolin just wasn’t the same… Now, to be fair to the guys, I think this might actually have been the fault of the sound engineer because the mandolin was blatantly there on stage, I just couldn’t hear it properly. Sean himself has done a wonderful job as “The new Liam,” and whilst it is going to take a while to get used to the slightly different sound, he sure can play guitar, and don’t worry folkies, there’s no rapping. Yet.
I think it’s safe to say then, that despite my ridiculous reservations, Raglans are back, and they’re ready to conquer the world, one painfully catchy tune at a time.
Unless you’re interested in seeing them as support for the Delorentos, it may be a while until you can catch them live again, but catch them live is something which I implore you do, so in the meantime you should check out their music on Bandcamp, pick up their EP Long Live on iTunes or in Tower Records, like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter!
And yes, before you say it, I know I need an iPhone.