For a long time now I’ve been a massive admirer of the music of Sligo singer/songwriter, Stephen Gormley and the music that he performs under the moniker of Moon Looks On. There was something about the lyrical ability and musicianship that immediately appealed to me, as the stories that Gormley tells through his songs are expertly crafted and wonderfully told.

Last Thursday, Moon Looks On played a show in the Dublin city venue of The Grand Social to act as the launch for his upcoming single Friends Keep Dropping (an absolute cracker of a tune, by the way) and it proved to be another beautiful night of live music by the group.

One of the most striking things about watching Moon Looks On is the sheer quality of the musicianship on show throughout. Over the past few years Gormley has managed to assemble some of the best musicians in Dublin to help him bring these songs to life, and surrounded by Laura Ryder (keys), Jack Hussey (guitar), Matilda O’Mahony (vocals), Aisling Bridgeman (strings, backing vocals), Jack Bird (drumming), Lorna McDonnell (backing vocals), and Eanna Harrison (bass), it made for an amazing live music experience.

Throughout the show, the audience got to see the full scope of the music of the group, songs like Summertime in Bloom and Pray for the Rain showed a the range of songwriting and theme when contrasted with songs like Razor Wire Skies, and this variation helped to keep the set innovative and engaging. Then there are moments like the A Capella performance of Sorry State Blues that are unlike anything that you’ll get from most other acts on the Irish music scene at the moment. You could have heard a pin drop – just stunning.

The support on the night was made of a mix of close friends and band members of Gormley, and this helped to add to the atmosphere of warmth and support that was being felt by all in attendance. The first act was BIMM graduate and Kildare native Che Lawlor, whose intricate and heartfelt style of storytelling was an excellent opener for the night.

Following on from Che Lawlor came another alumni of the BIMM college. Laura Ryder Ampersand is another one of the new batch of innovative and charismatic songwriters on the Irish music scene, and before joining Gormley on stage for keys she treated the assembled crowd to a gorgeous set to set the mood before the main act.

Very often it is difficult for songwriters who deal in delicate and emotive lyrics and instrumentation to transmit the depth of emotion in their music on to the live stage. Sometimes the need to be louder and more extravagant in a live setting can see the messages at the heart of songs being somewhat lost. This was not the case here. In The Grand Social, Moon Looks On demonstrated that when done well, even the most introspective and honest songs can still have all their punch in a loud live setting. Excellent.

Very excited to hear what’s to come in 2020.

MK