Walking On Cars at The Olympia Theatre – Review & Photos
Following their sold out Olympia headline show earlier this year, Dingle band Walking On Cars returned to the famous Dame St. venue this week. This time for a brace of shows as part of their Irish nationwide tour. Tuesday marked a momentous day for the band, as prior to their evening show they made a morning appearance on Today FM to finally announce the release of their eagerly awaited debut album Everything This Way. Coming together in 2011, it’s been a long road for the band who have slowly but surely built a huge home following off the back of some good old-fashioned graft. Travelling the length and breadth of the country over the past number of years, the Kerry 5-piece have gigged relentlessly. From early shows playing on the back of a truck in their hometown, to tiny pub venues in Cork and Kilkenny, no-one could accuse the band of trying to take any shortcuts to the top. Their hard work paid off last year when they signed an international major record deal with Virgin. For all their work-ethic, one of the major reasons for Walking On Cars ascent is simple. In Patrick Sheehy, they possess one of Ireland’s best modern songwriters. Despite being coy in releasing their material (two EP’s and one stand-alone single in four years), the band have now assembled a setlist full of brilliantly melodic and memorable songs.
Opening tonight’s show in a blaze of strobe lighting, ‘Tick Tock’ checks all the boxes for a hit single, epic arrangements, a mammoth chorus and plenty of melodic hooks, with looping verse arpeggios courtesy of classically trained pianist Sorcha Durham. Having caught many of the band’s early shows over the years, it’s been interesting to watch their setlist develop. As they gradually introduced newer material to their set, older songs were pushed out one by one. There’s no place tonight for the rap influenced ‘Seen This Coming’ or the piano-led ballad ‘Nothing’s Impossible’. The new material aired tonight displays an edgier side to the band, with drummer Evan Hadnett utilising drum pads to give the arrangements a very modern feel. ‘Magazine’ has a catchy stop-start verse rhythm before leading into a wonderful pre-chorus. ‘If This Ship Goes Down’ appears tonight in rearranged form, with its bass heavy rock intro jettisoned in favour of soft piano chords. When the hit singles arrive the audience shriek in excitement. One of the darker moments in their armoury with its sombre piano notes, ‘Always Be With You’ really flourishes in its live form while ‘Two Stones’ still sounds every bit as good as it did when it first hit the airwaves two years ago.
Frontman Patrick Sheehy’s husky voice is central to the band’s appeal. With constant (and fitting) comparisons to the vocal tones of Charlie Simpson and former X-Factor winner James Arthur, you get the feeling it won’t be too long before the roles are reversed and they are being compared to him. His voice works particularly well on the band’s softer moments. The beautiful ‘Don’t Mind Me’ would fit perfectly on any emotional U.S. TV drama, while the Christmas themed ‘Flying High Falling Low’ might just be the best song the band has written to date. Having gone through several stylistic changes over the years, tonight’s rendition is a triumph, with some fans singing along to a song which has yet to be publicly released. Borrowing its ‘Heya’ vocal hook from Blackstreet’s seminal 90s hip-hop smash ‘No Diggity’, forthcoming single ‘Speeding Cars’ is primed to be the band’s biggest radio hit yet. A song on which every band member shines, guitarist Dan Devane’s solo in its closing stages is particularly impressive. Ending their main set with the driving stadium pop of ‘Hand In Hand’, it dawns on you just how devoid of filler their set is.
Walking On Cars leave the stage to a standing ovation, ending a three song encore with familiar set-closer ‘Catch Me If You Can’. Filling the Olympia three times before even releasing your debut album is a feat very few bands can boast and just goes to emphasise how much their music has connected with their fanbase. Just like fellow Irish pop rockers The Coronas, Walking On Cars have worked tirelessly to become one of Ireland’s premiere live bands. Their next challenge is trying to crack the notoriously tricky UK market. But armed with a burgeoning selection of brilliant songs, great band chemistry, and major label backing, 2016 might just prove to be the year where Walking On Cars go international. As Patrick Sheehy sings in tonight’s solo encore performance of ‘Coming My Way’: ‘It’s been a long time coming, no doubt we had to stand in line’. Walking On Cars can justifiably lay claim to having conquered their homeland. Next stop? The world.
Review by Gary O’Donnell
Photos by Tudor Marian