There were times last night when I felt like I might have been fooled into attending the filming of one of those girls-night-out Christmas party Boots ads. While The Temper Trap demonstrated the strength of the rest of their album, the Olympia slowly filled up with excited young-ish ladies dressed up for a night of wobbly karaoke. Topshop could quite reasonably have hung their logo across the front of the building given that majority of those in attendance (and onstage) seemed to be kitted out in the high street’s finest. But here is a woman with a voice to make you instantly forget all that. Although her glow-in-the-dark curtain, bird-cages and flowers added to an impeccable light and stage show, that all seems unimportant when she lets out a howl in the midst of it all. Considering this was only the second day of her new tour, it was a near flawless display of the reasons why she was so hotly tipped this time last year and how she managed to fulfill that potential throughout 2009. Her rise to superstardom has surprised many, even those who were on board early on as she crammed in a ridiculous amount of exposure in 12 months. Having seen her at Oxegen and Electric Picnic during the “summer”, I was fully prepared for the full-on bombastic live show and she didn’t dissapoint. After temporarily turning the gig into a fully-seated affair in the middle of “Dog Days Are Over”, Florence scaled the PA speakers during “You’ve Got The Love” and climbed all the way into a private box on the left hand side to bellow another verse down to the crowd before returning to the stage for a final bow. If I don’t see another brilliant gig this year, I’ll be satisfied with my lot for 2009 and as it stands, Florence Welch is responsible for three of the best.
After leaving the Olympia, we thought we’d take a chance on the Whelan’s 20th Birthday gig and so wandered down there near 11pm. The free-entry celebration gig was supposed to be on an invite/lottery kinda deal and others seemed to think it was pay-in from 10:30 onwards. We walked straight in the alleyway door though and were immediately directed upstairs by the bouncer, leading us to assume that the downstairs was jam-packed. It wasn’t. The Flaws were on.We wandered through the smoking area and the front bar, bumping into people and chatting about the rumoured line-up and whether or not Podge was supposed to be onstage or not. At the bar the I read a sign detailing the night’s performance times. It seems we had missed Maria Doyle Kennedy and some others. After The Flaws, the night was supposed to continue with Ham Sandwich, David Kitt, Gemma Hayes and Paddy Casey. This didn’t go to plan though and after the confetti mess of Ham Sandwich was done with and Podge’s disco-trousers left the stage, it was Mundy who appeared to take the place of Kittser (who Mundy concluded had smoked too much hash and couldn’t make it). His set was a bit lifeless with the scattered, static crowd keeping their distance for the first few songs. But after getting the sing-along he so sorely needed during July and a cover of MIA’s “Paper Planes”, he had the place cheering like it was 2002. Niamh Farrell from Ham Sandwich returned to sing “To You I Bestow” to close the Offaly man’s set. After much waiting around for Gemma Hayes, who had been conspicuously absent from the venue’s bars, Paddy Casey emerged and explained that Gemma was playing a gig in the airport and couldn’t make it. Paddy Casey expertly dealt with the dissapointment in the room by inviting Ronan Ó Snódaigh onstage with him for the bulk of his set, which included his old hits and covers of “No Diggity” as well as a Kíla song or two. All in all, it was a strange and underwhelming celebration of a venue that is so important to the Irish music scene that it should really have been the party of the year. It seemed hastily organised and the unambitious line-up (as well as the DJ’s Led Zeppelin soundtrack) left the whole event feeling like a pale shadow of my borderline-legal days in Whelan’s early in the decade.