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Adrian Crowley at Whelan’s in Dublin

Monday, July 20, 2009 at 08:10 AM EDT

Seeming a rather self-contained sort onstage, as perhaps might befit his sombre and contemplative music, Adrian Crowley has not opted for much audience interaction or humour in any show that I had seen him play prior to last Saturday night. Moreover, the unassuming way that he strode out on stage at the weekend, wordlessly shouldered his red semi-acoustic guitar, and immediately launched into Long Distance Swimmer suggested the same well-trodden path. Not that I have tended to mind. In the 2007 album of the same name, Adrian produced one of the best works by an Irish artist in years and it is always a pleasure to hear those songs played.

As it turned out, though, more-of-the-same was not the direction that this show was actually heading in. Joined after the first three songs by two more guitarists and a drummer, this proved to be a much more muscular set than I had been anticipating. Initially, when the drummer leathered his way excessively through Season of the Sparks and The Three Sisters, drowning out Adrian on the organ in the process, the omens were not good. However, the return of the latter to playing the guitar coincided with a better all-round mix. The first fruits of this being a reworking of Photographing Lightning Strikes into a behemoth of a rock song. While it may have been better placed a little further down the set list, it was still as head-boppingly entertaining as it was out of the blue.

The other surprising aspect of the show was how frequently Adrian chatted to the largely-seated audience. This produced one funny exchange which culminated in him admitting that he once had to rescue two of his albums from the front window of a charity shop on Dublin’s North Strand. Later on, he was able to cash in some of that goodwill when problems tuning one of his guitars meant that he could not play a promised first encore of Daniel Johnston’s The Sun Shines Down On Me. Frustrated, but to the mirth of pretty much everyone else, he had to call the band back out to finish solely on a pulsating These Icey Waters instead.

Earlier in the show, I loved the guitar work on The Beekeeper’s Wife, whilst Squeeze Bees positively oozed sleazy double entendres and Leaving the Party almost had people dancing! Pleasingly, my favourite song in Walk On Part also got a run out. Indeed, it was a gratifying show all-round and comfortably the best that I have seen Adrian play. More of the same, if you will!

Here is the set list as I recall it:

  • Long Distance Swimmer
  • Walk On Part
  • The Beekeeper’s Wife
  • Summer Haze Parade
  • Season of the Sparks
  • The Three Sisters
  • Photographing Lightning Strikes
  • The Wishing Seat
  • Swedish Room
  • Squeeze Bees
  • Liberty Stream
  • Leaving the Party
  • These Icey Waters