Music is a long and painstaking road as people attempt to refine and develop their art to accurately express themselves as best it can. It can often take years for artists to fully become comfortable with their sound and the direction that they want their music to take, but all will agree that is worth it when they see it all come together, and such as the case last Tuesday night (19 November 2019) in the esteemed Dublin music venue Whelan’s when Galway singer-songwriter Kevin Neary performed his first headline show in the capital.
This was a long time coming for the talented songwriter, who has been plying his trade on the streets of Dublin for a few years now, and playing acoustic music nights around the city as well crafting his songwriting. The experience gathered through all these practices were all on show on the stage on Tuesday as he powered through a set that was full of energy and quality musicianship, and you will go a long way before you find a performer who seemed to be enjoying a show as much.
Opening his set with the fantastic track, No Rest for the Wicked, and it marked the perfect beginning to the show that was about to start. First things first, it is important to pay credit to the downright incredible backing band that Neary had assembled for the gig, Evin O’Connor (lead guitar), Amy Naessens (backing vocals), Niamh Keane (backing vocals and violin), Eoin O’Mahony (backing vocals and guitar), Laura Ryder (keys and backing vocals), Tadhg O’Brien (bass), and Andrew Kirby (drums), who helped to make every song feel like a perfectly crafted piece of work. The band were complimented throughout by the versatility of Neary who effortlessly moved between electric guitar, acoustic guitar, saxophone, and keyboard through the show.
One thing that stands out as you listen to the Galway singer/songwriter perform is the obvious care and hard work that has gone into every song. It is clear that these are songs that Neary has been working on for a long time and he knows them inside out and knows exactly what it wants from them. Songs like Dangerous, Take Me Anywhere, and the upcoming single Man of Faith, sounded fantastic and they were performed with a gusto that couldn’t help but bring the audience along for the ride. Towards the end of his set, the performers on stage even treated those in attendance to a phenomenal cover of the excellent Paolo Nutini single, Iron Sky – it was pretty special.
It is also important to pay tribute to the support acts on the night who helped to set the scene perfectly for what was to come. First up we had singer/songwriter Jack McAteer whose excellent mix of folk and blues rock musicianship proving a powerful start to the night of the music.
Up after Jack was another up-and-coming artist on the Irish music scene, recent BIMM Dublin graduate ORLA. In her half hour set, ORLA treated the audience in Whelan’s to a beatifully soulful and accomplished display of soul songwriting. It was hard not to be captivated by the vocals on display during this set and it will be fun watching ORLA’s career in the coming years.
This was a fantastic night of music from another of the names who is preparing to make a big statement on the Irish music scene in the coming years. Kevin Neary has taken his time to create his sound and performance persona and there was something natural and comfortable about this display. It was clear that Neary loved every second while on stage, and it was clear that everyone watching did as well.