Walking On Cars At 3Arena – Review & Photos
As with a lot of things in life, something earned through hard work and dedication feels far more satisfying than it being merely handed to you. In an era of reality TV popstars and YouTube sensations who find fame singing covers into their webcam, the old fashioned route to stardom based on long hours of application can still prove as effective and often more sustaining. Without the career head start of an online viral hit like some of their chart topping peers such as Kodaline, Hozier or more recently Picture This, Kerry 5-piece Walking On Cars’ ascent has been based on solid graft, touring the length and breadth of the country countless times, building up a sizeable home following in the process. Years of hard work paid off when debut album Everything This Way held a vice-like grip on the number one spot in Ireland for several weeks upon its release at the beginning of 2016. Having been gigging since 2011, tonight marks their first headline arena show, and after years of groundwork, the occasion feels like the placing of the flag at the summit of the mountain.
While on paper, an arena show off the back of one album may appear to be over-stretching, the band have sold out every other venue in town several times over, so tonight feels like a natural progression rather than an ambitious risk. They don’t lack experience playing to massive audiences either, having opened for Kodaline at their bumper Marlay Park show this Summer, appeared on sprawling main stages over festival season, and headlined Cork’s Indiependence festival. Walking On Cars have also served their arena-playing apprenticeship playing support to both Paramore and The Coronas in this very venue over the past few years, threatening to eclipse the headliners on each occasion. Nor are the band short of hits. 7 of the 12 songs that make up Everything This Way were released as singles at some point in Ireland, which makes the debut album almost feel like a mini Greatest Hits compilation. Built on a foundation of Patrick Sheehy’s undeniably strong songwriting and stunning voice, each member brings their own sound to these songs, not least Sorcha Durham’s classically influenced piano lines and Dan Devane’s lush Stratocaster tones.
As a giant clock projection gets the show underway in true showbiz-style, the scene is set for Walking On Cars to top off the best year of their career. However, traditional set opener, ‘Tick-Tock’ doesn’t quite fill the cavernous space as easily as one may have first thought, nor does the anthemic gospel-tinged hit single ‘Two Stones’. It’s not until ‘At Gunpoint’, one of the oldest songs in their arsenal, rebuilt with a brand new chorus for the album release, that the band begin to sound at ease in the vast surroundings. Rockier new single ‘If This Ship Goes Down’ keeps the energy up and the crowd singing before the moody minor-key tension of ‘Always Be With You’ provides the high point of the first half of the show. Breaking from their singalong pop rock template, it still stands out as one of the best things the band has ever done and continues to be a special moment in their live sets.
The blissful ‘Love Backs Down’ utilises synthetic drum beats to excellent effect, however Don’t Mind Me’ loses some of its delicate beauty with its piano intro replaced with pounding drums. Any fears of the show running short due to a lack of material are put to rest early on, as the set is padded out with a terrific cover of James-Vincent McMorrow’s ‘We Don’t Eat’, a rendition that sounds markedly different when compared to the original since Sheehy’s voice is at the opposite end of the spectrum in terms of timbre. There is also a preview of some very promising new material, in addition to the revival of forgotten oldie ‘Nothing’s Impossible’ for the occasion, one of several songs which never made the cut for Everything This Way. While a brilliant post-encore performance of B-Side ‘Coming My Way’ with Sheehy alone at the piano, is the kind of intimate stripped-down moment the debut album may have lacked.
On first inspection it appeared that the band may have made the mistake of trying to move their theatre-sized production onto the larger 3Arena stage. However a large number of video screens slowly appear to give the show the stadium scale it deserves. The stage set-up also includes a long walkway extending the venue’s stage out into the standing audience, the type of facility favoured by illustrious types such as Bono, Chris Martin and Dave Grohl et al. For a band on their first album playing their first arena show, its inclusion highlights the level of confidence the band have right now. Sheehy makes full use of this extra space and being released from guitar playing duties for several songs gives him the freedom to get out into the crowd, making the giant space seem a lot smaller.
Having been their calling card for so long, debut single ‘Catch Me If You Can’ may have been usurped by ‘Speeding Cars’ as the big crowd pleasing finisher but it’s lost none of its singalong qualities with its group-vocal breakdown still capable of raising goosebumps. The set-closing ‘Speeding Cars’ has always sounded like a smash-hit in waiting since the early days of playing to audiences in The Academy and Whelan’s, and tonight it sounds custom-built for big rooms, particularly its simple but highly effective guitar solo. After a tentative start, Walking On Cars seemed to gradually become more comfortable as their big night progressed, almost growing into a natural arena band before our eyes over the course of the show until the huge space seemed like home. Having started from humble beginnings playing their local pubs, the Kerry 5-piece have made the huge strides hinted at in their band name. The result tonight was a triumphant victory lap of a show, and for Walking On Cars it feels like they’re only getting started.
Photos by David Doyle
Review by Gary O’Donnell