Little Hours at Whelan’s – Review
A packed to capacity Whelan’s was the latest venue for Killybegs’ duo Little Hours to continue their rapid ascent on Thursday night. With just one EP release under their belts thus far, the band’s progress is the stuff of dreams and selling out the famous Wexford St. venue in such a short space (the band only formed last summer) is a particularly impressive feat. Having attended the band’s previous Dublin headline show in the Pepper Canister Church back in February, it became obvious following that night’s masterful performance, that these guys are the real deal, and the news that they were picked up by a major record label, Sony RCA, last month came as little surprise. Walking around the venue prior to the headline act’s arrival onstage, many strong Donegal accents fill the air, suggesting that a large hometown fan base has made the long trip for tonight’s show in the capital. Taking to the stage and kicking into opener ‘Tracks’, Little Hours show there is more to their acoustic guitar and piano driven sound than previous intimate performances may have suggested, with some epic rock arrangements on display. Whereas previous shows have seen the band line up with just the two original members, tonight they are bolstered by a further three musicians, with live drums, bass and lead guitar giving an added punch to their delicate folk melodies.
Frontman John Doherty possesses a show stopping voice, while Ryan McCloskey’s gorgeous harmonies serve as the perfect accompaniment. The band’s breakthrough song ‘It’s Still Love’ gets an airing halfway through the set, and inspires a mass singalong to delight of the band. While folk-pop acts often run the risk of lacking variety over the course of a full show, Little Hours judge the pace of the set perfectly, and even indulge in some sonic experimentation with the auto tune vocals of ‘Call Somebody’ proving a real standout. Having first heard the song in the band’s two piece setup at their last headline show, the addition of some excellent percussion contributes an added edge to the track. Fellow Irish indie stars Little Green Cars’ track ‘Red and Blue’ seems an obvious, yet accurate comparison. Guitarist Ryan McCloskey adds some further variety to the show by exhibiting some virtuosic Newton Faulkner-style guitar work during heart-wrenching new song ‘Driving the Spark’.
Some problems arise however after the more familiar songs are aired. On one hand, it can be challenging for an audience when an act only has four songs publicly available, yet the amount of full volume chatter tonight is surprising, and becomes very noticeable during the set’s quieter moments such as on the gorgeous new song ‘Hope’. That the crowd finally hush when the band play a Beyoncé cover is as disheartening as it is inevitable. None of this has any bearing on the five musicians on stage however, as each song is delivered with razor sharp focus. Closing the show with another brand new song, ‘Snow’, the band turn in perhaps the best performance of the night, with some military-style drum fills and a raw passionate vocal performance. As the song’s soft outro fades to silence, the band leave the stage to rapturous applause.
With a setlist that’s already crammed with brilliant songs, Little Hours showed tonight why a real buzz is beginning to grow around them. The addition of a full live band proved to be an excellent decision as much of tonight’s set would have suffered had they played the intimate stripped down sets of previous gigs. With much of the show comprising of brand new material which sounds even better than their debut EP, the sky really is the limit for this hugely promising duo.
Review by Gary O’Donnell