Pop review: Devlin disguise
Thursday 28 May 1998
Clyde Auditorium, Glasgow
With its vast arched roof overlapping in scale-like layers, it's easy to see why the Clyde Auditorium is known locally as "The Armadillo". Thinly spread across the expanse of stage inside, Dublin trio looked somewhat vulnerable, but as bass player Peter Devlin and guitarist/vocalist Colin Devlin took it in turns to build audience rapport, they soon found security in their well honed set.
The band have enjoyed considerable success in Canada and the US, where celebrity fans include Joni Mitchell, Alanis Morissette and REM's Michael Stipe. The fact that Colin has the rugged good looks and lilting brogue of the leading man in a Murphy's ad probably helps, but Waiting - a beautifully focused record blending tasteful samples with classic songwriting ideals - confirms that these boys are the real McCoy.
The venue's acoustics were extremely impressive, the PA stack sounding like God's CD system rather than the usual tower of muffled power. This proved to be the perfect medium for ' perspicacious lyrics, and, as wistful snapshots such as "World Outside" and "Surrender" rang true, they dangled subtle melodic hooks with the assured patience of trout fishermen.
I would guess that many of tonight's audience were Devlins virgins, and, though clearly gripped, initially the crowd exuded only the potential to be smitten. Perhaps this was because many of Colin's compositions are slow-burners and are simply just too clever to get in one pass.
It's this writing style, though - antithetical to the drum-it-in, wear- it-out ethos that spawned Kylie's "I Should Be So Lucky" - which is ' ultimate strength. You can come back to their songs time and time again.
It was a little disappointing that "Big Decision" and "Reckless", two of Waiting's strongest tunes, weren't aired tonight. The album's title track, though, a classic "list" song in which the protagonist measures his longing in units of stalled time, was a treat. There was a clever moment when, instead of trying to negotiate a rapid switch from acoustic guitar to electric, Colin simply left a verse hanging on a limb for 15 or 20 seconds. The audience recognised this visual echo of the song's sentiment and cheered. By now their intrigue was mutating into spontaneous gestures of appreciation.
They closed with "Heaven's Wall", introduced by Colin as "a folk song". His left-handed Stratocaster triggered sampled guitar arpeggios created by his brother Peter, and the tune's frugal melodies and understated arrangement hit home at an almost subliminal level. Then, just as the audience were getting a real taste for it, were gone. However you look at it, less is still more.
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