Printer Clips at the National Concert Hall – Review
For the past year, Bell X1 front man, Paul Noonan, has taken up residence at the National Concert Hall as part of a national music hub programme and so it’s only fitting that tonight he takes to the stage in the very same building with Printer Clips. Printer Clips consists of nothing but duets featuring Noonan and a myriad of leading ladies from Cathy Davey to Joan As Policewoman. On Saturday, May 24th, Noonan and five of those ladies took to the stage to give the first live Printer Clips performance.
Entering the concert hall, I had a few reservations. Ashamedly, I admit, I am quite new to the Bell X1 fan base and wasn’t too sure how to take Noonan outside the realm of his ‘pop rock combo’. With persuasion from my other half and a brief listen to Apparatchik, I was convinced to go… and glad I was to be there in the end.
With no introduction and little fuss, Noonan took to the stage first with Gemma Hayes for opener The Snowman. Quickly, they were joined by Caoimhín O’Raghallaigh of The Gloaming, who flitted on and off stage throughout the night, and by song three had jumped into a gripping cover of Bob Dylan and Jacques Levy’s ‘Oh, Sister’. Cathy Davey replaced Hayes for two storytelling tunes that were full to the brim with the whimsical lyrics that we would all expect for Bell X1 but simplified into a ‘one girl voice, one boy voice, two guitar’ set-up, as he explains. Davey proves the perfect other half to this duet, being a storyteller in her own right, with her personal back catalogue.
To quote him, this was to be a “euphoric, if not shit-scared” performance. And that it was. The night went off perfectly, albeit a few anxiety-induced hiccups that somehow managed to add to the charm. Danielle Harrison, his next leading lady, proved quite nervy but still offered up borderline celestial vocals for ‘My Rome Is Burning’. Two songs later and I was convinced that I needed to see Harrison again, in her own setting and in her own comfort zone.
Next to the stage was a crowd favourite in the form of Maria Doyle Kennedy, for ‘The Cartographer’ and ‘Vapour Trail’. First and foremost, I knew Doyle Kennedy as the shotgun bearing, ass-kicking, altogether puzzling character Mrs. S on hit TV show Orphan Black. As a result, I was even more taken aback by her musical prowess and charm. Honestly, as Noonan himself said, she gives a new life to ‘Vapour Trails’, which is sung by Joan As Policewoman for the album, and am disappointed that a recorded version by her does not exist.
Taking to the stage for a quick moment alone, Noonan takes advantage of the chance to play a Steinway for a rendition of Bell X1’s “Careful What You Wish For”, much to the crowd’s excitement. Finally, he introduces Lisa Hannigan and you can’t help but get the feeling that these two were born to duet together. Hannigan’s voice soft yet heart wrenchingly powerful enriches Noonan’s and she bears the same whimsy and wit that makes them so charming. They begin with ‘Apparatchik’, and I fall a little in love with the duo before a duet of a Hannigan original ‘O Sleep’. With ‘Some Surprise’, she bids us adieu.
Noonan returns solo for the encore and on the verge of tears telling the audience the story behind the concluding track that tells of his daughter who was born with a hole in her heart. He is then joined by his wife, and as the ending notes of their duet chime in, there isn’t a dry eye in the house, who don’t hesitate with a standing ovation.
On the way home, Twitter was covered in congratulations and acclaim for Noonan, and although he proved himself an enthralling singer and songwriter, I couldn’t help but feel that not enough eyes were on the leading ladies for had certainly captured my heart tonight. Printer Clips put on a charming, whimsical and a tug at the heart strings kind of performance that wasn’t just your average gig. The self-titled album is for available now on iTunes and as far as I am concerned worth it just on the promise of that Hannigan-Noonan duet.
Review by Laur Ryan