It’s easy to be cynical about Kodaline. Irish TV talent show runners-up. Championed by Gary Barlow. Tear-jerking Beauty and the Beast style video for debut single. Say things in interviews like “music must have a purpose; ours is honesty”. Debut EP entitled ‘A Collection of Songs as Heard on Radio 1’.
Okay so the last of those may not be true, but just from the others it isn’t difficult to conjure up an image of what Kodaline might be like. As lead singer Stephen Carrigan skulks on stage in front of a packed Fibbers crowd, all cheek-bones, jaw-line and designer stubble, he doesn’t exactly dispel the lingering preconceptions. He looks like he’s been crudely stuck together by a marketing exec whose job depends on every teenage girl in England having a Stephen Carrigan poster on their wall by the end of the year. Blood begins to pour from ears all around the venue due to the preposterous volume at which his eye-makeup screams “I AM A DEEP AND EMOTIONAL MAN”. In contrast, he’s flanked by grinning band-mates with kind Irish faces, the sort of gentlemen your mum would approve of if your sister brought them round for lunch on a Sunday afternoon.
All of a sudden these presentable young men are combining to make a bit of a racket. First song “Lose Your Mind” begins with Carrigan’s ubiquitous falsetto tussling for position alongside soaring guitars and a slightly foreboding bass line. It’s sort of psychedelic, but not quite; like a hippy who works part-time at Natwest. Soon it all settles down and the big chorus is unleashed allowing Carrigan’s falsetto to take centre stage.
Ahh, ‘the big chorus’. It transpires that Kodaline quite like writing these, and handily for them, they’re pretty good at it too. But this fondness for the rousing hook can prove their undoing. Take “Pray” for instance. The opening wistful guitar/piano interplay is so reminiscent of the build-up of many anthemic-indie songs from the turn of the century, à la Embrace and The Verve, that when the eventual crescendo arrives it feels inevitable rather than moving and ultimately falls short.
And so it’s up to a song with a much subtler charm to impress most on the night. “The Answer” is the sort of quaint little lullaby that would sit happily on a Slow Club album but is more likely to end up on a John Lewis advert. Still, its quality can’t be denied and tonight it sounds more natural in the intimate surroundings than anything else offered up.
They close with biggest hit to date “All I Want”, a proper lighters-aloft heart-string puller which has already clocked up a-near 2 million hits on YouTube. Cue a barrage of teenage girls thrusting iPhones in the air and singing every word in a fashion that would suggest their marketing exec may still have a job come 2014. It’s a nice moment and the young band appear slightly overwhelmed by the reaction. They should get used to it though; in spite of the cynicism, big things are expected of Kodaline. And I’m not just talking about those choruses.By Ali Mills