Live Reviews - Reviews

ASIWYFA Irish Tour


North Coast quartet And So I Watch You From Afar played two extraordinary Irish shows at the weekend, at Dublin’s Olympia and Belfast’s Mandela Hall respectively. Our photographers Isabel Thomas and Colm Laverty, and writers Eoghain Meakin and Cathal McBride were there to cover it all.

Olympia Theatre, Dublin
Photos by Isabel Thomas

There’s something special about the Olympia. It’s not the most high profile venue in the city, nor does it always host the best acts from under or over the ground. But the traditional stage, elaborate plaster work and balconies add a sense of occasion to proceedings hard to match in the more proliferous ‘dive’ type venues.


It’s a perfect setting for Meltybrains? (above) kitted out in their refined serial killer gear, now a hallmark of their arthouse aesthetic. Musically they pulsate from soporific to ecstatic, drawing out their synthy meanderings into structured yet madcap balls of noise. In fact some of it would just be nonsense if it wasn’t for the clear display of learn-ed and thought provoking musicality. Music that is so inherently intellectual that the silliness becomes a type of ruse, or in joke.

Having some of your core audience away wrecking their body and soul at some festival may be detrimental for some bands. But this is And So I Watch You From Afar and they are not a normal band. Such is their brand of unique, inventive post-rock that the loyalty they inspire is near unparalleled for bands of their ilk and standing. So the place is packed and though it’s a little more spacious in the seating area upstairs everyone is crammed into the first five rows. Set seating be damned!


Then they come on and it all happens. Instantly it’s clear that this is not the ASIWYFA of years gone by; powerful as they may always have been. This is a band of conquerors, refined by their constant touring schedule and stronger for it. Selecting something like a greatest hits from their four albums they’ve put together a set of killer track after killer track. Playing loud, they reinvigorate songs like ‘Set Guitars to Kill’ and ‘7 Billion People…’ with a might and awe that other bands would sacrifice their teeth for. This is guitar driven music’s most high minded ideal. The sound is ear shakingly raw but the musicianship is polished and solid. The tight but organic changes come in with such clarity and deftness that they’re gasp inducing. It’s relentless and every track comes with a wild light display blasting the senses into a euphoric shambling heap.


“We play weird music that no one should like,” guitarist Rory Friers says at one point, clearly humbled by the crowds enthusiasm. Yet like it they do, and the lads return with another fifteen minutes of pure, ingenious, distorted, vital, schema bursting rock.

Best live gig ever? Perhaps Hendrix at Woodstock has that one. Best live gig in Dublin circa 2015 and a few years either side of it? Oh yes, I think we can give them that one. Eoghain Meakin


Mandela Hall, Belfast
Photos by Colm Laverty

Having played countless shows in Belfast alone around the time of their last album All Hail Bright Futures – from their album launch to benefit gigs to a Belsonic support lot and a Christmas show, not to mention appearances in Derry and Draperstown, this time round And So I Watch You From Afar have billed tonight’s Mandela Hall show as their only Northern Irish show of 2015. It could be due to another busy touring schedule, or perhaps they just want to make this show as special as possible. With the venue filling up unusually early for a Belfast gig, if it’s the latter then already itt seems like they’ve succeeded.


Skymas (above) take to the stage first, their energetic dance-punk sounding like it snuck here off of an early noughties DFA Records compilation, all electronics and huge sounding bass, accompanied by former Alloy Mental frontman Martin Corrigan’s Beastie Boys-esque vocals. It’s an enthralling set, and though admittedly by the end there’s a feeling that many of the songs are bleeding into one indistinguishable mass in the memory, the energy they give off on tracks like ‘Hey Porter’ is infectious.


While some reviews for ASIWYFA’s new album Heirs haven’t been quite as glowing as those of the first three, tracks like tonight’s opener ‘Run Home’ come to life in a live setting and sit well alongside the older material, while Rory Friers even invites his younger brother Ewen of Axis Of on stage to add extra vocals to ‘These Secret Things I Know’. While the band typically receive a rapturous reception from Belfast audiences, tonight it feels even more heightened than usual, the crowd being louder than the band itself on the vocal chants of ‘7 Billion People All Alive At Once’ and ‘Like A Mouse’ while the usual batch of sweaty topless men form an enthusiastic moshpit. The band seem genuinely overwhelmed by the reception, while musically they’re increasingly a force to be reckoned with, one of the most impressive live bands operating today.


Before they return for an encore of live staples including perennial set closer ‘The Voiceless’, ‘Don’t Waste Time Doing Things You Hate’ makes a welcome return to finish the main set, its chanted vocals echoing around Mandela Hall long after they’ve left the stage. It’s probably the night’s highlight, possibly due in part to being a less common feature in their set than the rest of tonight’s offerings. In fact if there’s one drawback to tonight, it’s that for those of us fortunate enough to have seen them countless times by now, much of the setlist feels a tad predictable. It would be nice to see them develop the confidence of a band like Mogwai to switch up the set every night with different album tracks and rarities without feeling too obliged to include certain favourites. That said, this particular batch of songs has clearly been honed to perfection, and for anyone seeing ASIWYFA for the first time, it’s a dream setlist. Seeing as it’s their only NI show of this year, we’ll let them off the hook on that one. Cathal McBride


is the editor of The Thin Air. Talk to him about Philip Glass and/or follow him on Twitter @brianconey.