Little Bear at Whelan’s – Review

Ports Whelan's Review

little-bear-ones-to-watch-6Little Bear are a four piece band from Derry. These four fellas have the ability to create delicate melodic clouds of candyfloss that carry you through the night and rock you gently as you go. Their music swells the room and the smiling crowd at Whelan’s on the first damp Thursday of October. They‘ve given us a taster of their talent with their appearance on “Other Voices” from Derry back in February. Little Bear live is even better, as we discovered back in January, when they played Ones To Watch 2013.

Lead singer, songwriter and bass player Steven Mc Cool is very good with words. His lyrics give the band’s work that illusive ability to connect. Surrounding me, spirits are lifted and smiles are drawn. Eager ears respond to the set. They start with new atmospheric material setting the scene for soundscape heaven. Steven’s emotive vocals pick up tempo with “Second In Line”. Mouth organ and bass lines lead us into this deceptive little story of unrequited love. “I would wait second in line for you“ breaks the bass and turns up the tempo hitting a Mumfordesque repeat and deliver uplifting chorus, warming whooo’s and hand holding poetics.

“I’d let you win” launches the next lonesome lovely tune “Tearful Skies and Walking Eyes”. On paper it sounds a bit misery Morrissey. But in reality it’s lush, layered, fragile and fulsome. Very Richard Hawley in parts, arrangements are not unfamiliar on Cole’s Corner.

When “The Devil is a Songbird” comes along the atmosphere is mellow. Those reverb whistling phones capture the melody, giving it a lonesome hollow sense of desolation. Sombre quiet delivery from Steven, understated elegance. Everyone hums it. “And the devil’s a songbird picking at my heart” followed by that whistling again is irresistible. Meandering gently into “It Depends”. A new track, it’s emotive and searching, taking the listener towards the audible jewel that is “ Night Dries Like Ink.”

“Night dries in, like ink against a glowing sea, brother I smile. Part of you, part of me. Fixed to the land. Motionless I call to thee. Blessed by the leaves and the autumn skies surrounding me.“ It’s almost a hymn. Another reference to the devil. The song is actually about McCool’s brother and his forced emigration to Australia. It’s a song many could sing. Rich and heavy, silent loss and echoing choruses. Sadness wrapped in pure luxury.

The New Unnamed Track got an airing next, a relaxed oceany feel from it, gently building guiding us into another familiar track called “Letters.” It has a bit of a Villagers feel to the ghostly echoes and opening chords. Chirpy and harmonic melodies carved into heavier riffs pick up the pace. “Dissonance “ is anther new track, which according to McCool means a lot to him. Into the much loved “Few and Far Between”, a song of the search for love that ends in Inishfree. The crowd move forward and all but hug the stage, singing it straight back at the boys. Ryan grins over to Mark on drums. They can’t quite believe it. Neither can the crowd. An encore is demanded. Smiling, grateful and full of thanks Little Bear give us another rendition of “Second in Line”. I have a funny feeling there will be lots of people who will wait “Second in Line“ to see these guys. It’s no wonder they were plucked and placed on the slot where Two Door Cinema Club should have been for their second shot at Other Voices. Alex Trimble rang in sick and Little Bear got the gig. Since then they’ve accumulated much critical acclaim from The Guardian, The Irish Times and BBC& RTE Radio. Currently signed to Smalltown America they have a double a side available with “Killer” and “Night Dries Like Ink”.

Check them out Facebook, iTunes and Smalltown America.

Read also: Interview with Little Bear

Review by Ciara Sheahan


Lucy Ivan

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