Gwenno / A Ritual Sea – The Sound House, Dublin – Saturday 11th May 2019
This was the show we weren’t supposed to see. Originally we were booked to see dEUS on the Saturday but the cancellation (and switch) of that show created a gap in our evening entertainment schedule. Musically it came down to a choice between Gwenno and the Murder Capital both playing as part of the Eastbound Festival. We picked the former on the basis that I thought that Mrs MPT would enjoy Gwenno more. And I think I got that one right!
Arriving at the Sound House, the venue turned out to be a long narrow room above a pub, probably around 200 capacity. Pretty much in first we took up position in front of the sound desk to give us something to lean against.
Support A Ritual Sea opened mixing guitars and keyboards. They felt like a restrained Desperate Journal perhaps leaning more in the direction of shoegaze at times. It was an impressive, if short, set.
By the time Gwenno and her band took the stage, we were flagging a little. But it didn’t take the headliner long to wake us up.
With albums in Welsh and Cornish to her name, between the songs the multi-lingual singer cast the cultural importance of minority languages in a political context without sounding preachy and also regretted never learning Irish when she did Irish dancing as a child. Whilst being delighted to be back in Dublin (she was also supporting the Manics the following evening) she also lamented not being in Cardiff for a Welsh independence march the same day.
Gwenno is the sort of frontperson who could make even an ordinary band sound majestic, yet with this set of musicians she’s an absolute star. With a drummer making his live debut with the band, the band were superb. The bass player and Gwenno’s keyboards replicated the sweeping soundscapes of the albums with an extraordinarily versatile guitarist taking the songs to another level. The overall effect was a show that was a lot more direct than the previous occasion that I’d seen her play with a five-piece band in Leith last year.
The set drew on both albums but knocked the recorded versions of the songs into the middle of next week. ‘Tir Ha Mor’ was an early highlight but ‘Koweth Kar’ with its extended psychedelic coda was perhaps the best of the lot. That was until “Eus Kus” (a.k.a the one about cheese) which really was a brilliant finale.
I enjoyed her set at Hidden Door last year, but have to say this one exceeded that performance by some distance. A cracking wee bonus for our trip. We’re very pleased that she’s going to be playing Doune The Rabbit Hole the day we’re going!