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Review of Nighthawks at the Cobalt, Dublin 30 May 2015

On 30 May 2015, I was privileged to be part of the audience at a unique music, poetry and comedy event: Nighthawks at the Cobalt. The venue was Number 16, North Great Georges Street, Dublin, not a club but one of Dublin's famous Georgian terraced houses, built around 230 years ago. The front and rear ground floor rooms form a continuous space. With artists at the front, the audience sitting on chairs, and a bar at the rear, it's an intimate, homely setting for an eclectic show.

First on the bill was Christian Collins He launched into his sparse, haunting compositions switching from his normal singing voice into a falsetto with almost operatic qualities. The songs were long and drawn out, with virtual silence in places. It was a virtuoso performance I wasn't expecting to see first on the bill.

Next was poet Lewis Kenny who I heard previously on the John Murray show when he was appointed as official poet with the Bohemians football club, based in north Dublin. Disarmingly direct and personal, spouting streams of words in patterns and rhythms, all spoken in a strong Dublin accent that some might find difficult to understand.

It was becoming clear there is some serious talent out there in Dublin at the moment.

The next artist, guitarist Shane Hennessy, overwhelmed the audience with his virtuoso guitar playing, combining Flamenco-style tapped rhythm, bass notes played partly with the thumb and intricate finger picking. The rhythm and dynamics of the music were stunning. I had to keep looking to check it was coming out of a single musical instrument. It was. Shane Hennessy has to be destined for great things and if it turns out to be true, I'm glad I saw him when I did. I found his live version of 'Avenue' is better than in the YouTube video above.

After another break we saw comedians Colin Chadwick, who offered some clever observations about life. But this wasn't quite the audience he was used to. He kept his head above water by making fun of himself.

Ronan Grace also explored the lewder side of things, telling a long story about sleepwalking in a hotel. He acknowledged the audience were not reacting the way he was expecting and his story remained unfinished. Entertaining but no belly laughs.

The three-piece band Harry Bird and the Rubber Wellies play folk music embellished with a ukulele or fiddle and kazoo. They were confident, together and full of cheek. They had the audience clapping, smiling and singing along.

Another break ensued and we were into the final stretch.

The third comedian of the night, Marcus O'Laoire, seemed to have the audience sussed. He must have had a chance . He kept us amused with quirky anecdotes about the Irish and lots more. Of the three comedians, his performance seemed to work best with the audience.

Finally the band Subplots started their set, and we it seemed to a be a recap of the style of the first act, Christian Collins, but created using a four piece band. Their spartan, soaring guitar and keyboards with that mixture of 'crooning' vocals and falsetto. It's a style that seems to tap into something hypnotic, rhythmic, repetitive, shamanistic. And with the final drum beat, the evening was at an end.

I loved the mixture of three different genres and the contrast between the performers. I wish however there had been more of a female element - there were too many beards! And while the spartan, crooning style is interesting, I'm not sure how much substance it has, and if anyone will be whistling those melodies.

All the acts can be sampled online, just do a search. I found the YouTube videos embedded in this article after a quick look.

Many thanks to Loch Coggin for bringing me along to Nighthawks at the Cobalt on Dublin's North Great Georges Street. I hope to attend another show on a future visit to Dublin.

North Great Georges Street Dublin
View along North Great Georges Street, Dublin

Written by Aidan O'Rourke
Posted/Updated 2015-06-01

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