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21 Music

September 28th 2010 Brendan Benson & Mudhoney at Cyprus Avenue

Kevin O’Neill previews this week’s gigs in Cyprus Ave and the treats in store for fans and newcomers alike

This week, Cork’s finest music venue, Cyprus Avenue, plays host to two very different, but equally exciting acts. Alternative singer- songwriter Brendan Benson will take to the stage today as part of an Irish tour, while American grunge pioneers Mudhoney will bring their own blend of blues and punk to the fore next Thursday. Acts of this calibre are rather typical of the venue in recent months as they strive to bring quality, alternative sounds to the south.

Known primarily to most

as one quarter of the Raconteurs, Brendan Benson is much more than one of Jack White’s sparring partners. Releasing his own work since 1996, Benson has steadily built a loyal fanbase. 2002’s break- through

release “Lapalco”

launched him into the sights of many people for the first time. Critical plaudits poured in, while the record sold far more than the preceding records. The track “Good To Me” was featured in many television shows and was also covered by the White Stripes,

while his set at the Leeds festival culminated in a blues masterpiece as he was joined on stage by mem- bers of the White Stripes, the Dat- suns and the Soledad Brothers.

Since then, Benson has

released two very successful records, though a huge portion of his time has been usurped by his project with Jack White and the rhythm section of Detroit blues band the Greenhornes, the Racon- teurs. Two albums and incessant touring ensured that Benson’s solo work was almost completely ig- nored for four years.

Despite this hiatus, the

quality of the work has not slipped. Benson played Cork last year to what was a very appreciative crowd and will be looking to do so again this year. Known for his en- joyment of cover songs, the set can be diverse and unique in every sin- gle show. Irish fans are generally treated to a very special rendition of Jape classic “Floating” when- ever Benson strolls into town, whether it is with the Raconteurs

or on his own back. Heavily indebted to the

works of Paul McCartney, ELO and the Cars, you can be sure that when Benson hits the stage it is not going to be a typical singer-song- writer show. The urgency, passion and, more importantly, genuine en- joyment of the performance by the man himself ensures a fantastic night.

A completely different

anomaly to Benson, however, is the Seattle rock band Mudhoney. Formed in the 1980s in the same conditions that spawned Nirvana, Mudhoney are often overlooked as an influential force despite their enormous contribution to the Seat- tle scene and, inevitably, the popu- larisation of the distorted, heavy punk movement

that became

known as “grunge”. The term is inevitably as-

sociated with Nirvana more so than any other act, though any seasoned rock fan will tell you that there are dozens of other great bands who emerged in the American north- west during the same period and never reached the heights of Kurt

houses Pearl Jam. Mudhoney’s sound is a

familiar one. The distorted, hard sounds have been done to death in the period since, though the origi- nal is tough to beat. Closer in sound to Pearl Jam than Nirvana, though a blend of the two is effec- tively what is on offer. The band, however, were not afraid to change their sound and, as the grunge sound found popularity,


moved to distance themselves from it. They began releasing garage rock and blues albums. This period coincided

and co. Mudhoney fall squarely into this category.

Commercially unsuccess-

ful throughout their twenty years in the music business, the band pro- vided huge inspiration for Ameri- can bands at the time – Nirvana in the immediate future, though the likes of REM and Pixies would both pinpoint Mudhoney as a fac- tor in their changing sound in the 1980s, while early members of the band went on to form rock power-

with very low sales for the band; however their live shows had be- come famous. They garnered huge popularity and were the entire rea- son the band resigned to a major label and re-launched their careers. Since then, they have continued to tour with huge success in Europe in particular – miss them at your peril.

Two very different acts,

though they are equally impressive live. Expect unpredictable and ex- citing shows.

We’’ve got the vision so let’s have some fun

Deputy Features Editor Karen O’Mahony reviews MGMT in the Olympia, and voices her dismay at their terrible support act.

This gig was MGMT’s final night of a three-night run at the Olympia. An intimate venue, it was sold out and packed to capacity for the New York-based rockers. The night got off to an inauspicious start with a decidedly underwhelming per- formance from Spectrum who pre- viously supported MGMT on many occasions.

Lead singer, Pete Kember, was so unassuming that a brief encounter with him before the gig gave me no indication that he was anyone other than a fellow concert-goer, albeit with a questionable sense of style. While I’m not looking for an arro- gant rock star attitude, it’s crucial for a front-man to have charisma and stage presence and I felt that he was lacking both. Every one of

their songs seemed to last an eter- nity, being dominated by repetitive synth-driven music and bland lyrics. There was very little inter- action with the crowd and their stage set-up was bizarre with one guitarist sitting on a chair with his back to the crowd for the entire set. It was a very long 45 minutes. The only flicker of enthusiasm from the crowd came when Ben Goldwasser of MGMT came onstage for a few minutes to take over from Kember on the keyboard.

In sharp contrast to the preceding

boredom, MGMT’s set burst into life with Flash Delirium, the first track off their latest album, Con- gratulations. Front-man, Andrew Vanwyngarden, exuded charisma from the very beginning, engaging

with the crowd between songs (while wearing a rather striking polka dot jacket).

Knowing exactly how to please the crowd, the first few songs were ac- companied by Google Earth im- ages of Dublin flashing across the background of the stage. After about seven songs, Time to Pre- tend, their first ever single ignited the crowd and from there things got better and better.

Their setlist was well-balanced with a mix of songs from both al- bums and from their E.P. We Don’t Care. Their second album has re- ceived some criticism for not being as accessible and easy to listen to as their debut album, Oracular Spectacular, but the new songs translate very well to a live setting. It was clear that the audience were less familiar with the new material but it didn’t detract from the per- formance in any way, instead leav- ing you with a desire to hear the

unfamiliar songs again.

Vanwyngarden’s vocals were fault- less, supported by vocals from three other band members. MGMT, originally a twosome, ex- panded to comprise 5 members with this album and it was a smart move as their live performance is boosted by the extra members.

After a mellow interlude when they played some slower songs, the eighty minute set came to a rousing crescendo, with Electric Feel, Brian Eno and the anthemic Kids ending an amazing set. The audi- ence were left singing Kids long after they’d left the stage.

Just when an encore was looking unlikely, they returned to the stage for two more songs, ending with Congratulations, a fitting end for a sublime performance.

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