Bell X1: 25 September 2009 - Chicago

Far beyond the end of the show and into the night, the songs continued to burrow deep and swift -- these Irish lads know exactly how our hearts and minds are wired.

Bell X1

Bell X1

City: Chicago
Venue: Double Door
Date: 2009-09-25

On a Friday night at the Double Door in Chicago, Bell X1was more than just an Irish rock trio. They were also musical cardiac surgeons performing sonic surgery on the hearts of the gathered. Lead singer/percussionist/guitarist Paul Noonan crooned softly as they began to slowly slice open the ballad “How Your Heart Is Wired”, a song where the lyrics imply coyness, confusion and uncertainty of love’s next steps.

“Kick the can I can’t see you now behind that temper and ire / Mister wolf knows what time it is / He says it’s dinner time / I don’t know what you’re carrying or how you’re heart is wired / but there’s a dangerous ticking / I cut the red one, No, the blue one / I cut the red one, I cut the blue one / raking over the embers and what I come across?”

But Noonan was anything but confused. He was confident, and sure of where he wanted to take the set, and how deep he wanted to go with fans. One by one, each song unfurled like a sweet smelling rose under the blue haze of the stage lights. Noonan tenderly quivered back and forth over lyrics that melded like fodder with the steady melody of his mates. The tender track “Like the Ribs of a Broken Umbrella” purred with a synthy undercurrent and dropped in our ears like a soft, sweet spring rain.

Bell X1’s fourth album Blue Lights on the Runway is full of moments where the songwriting continues to move further away from their previous albums by mixing folk, pop and sonic similarities inspired by Talking Heads and Brian Eno. Over the last several years, they’ve worked their way up the European charts and then into the ears of American fans by featuring songs on hit Primetime TV shows. Noonan had no shame telling the crowd how he felt about how the 2004 hit song “Eve, the Apple of My Eye” found its way into the ears of an American audience on The O.C. “We take our breaks were we can get them. We would have put the song on fucking Falcon Crest."

Though most of the show shifted in all the right ways and flowed to all the right places on the strength of Noonan’s smooth and soothing lyrical storytelling, a bit of tension arose between Noonan and fans who gazed upwards in awe at him from the front row. Getting a bit frustrated, he wasn’t finding the intimate connection he was hoping for with the crowd. So he took a risk and decided to call out fans for abusing their right to record the show on video cameras and cell phones. He smiled at fans in the front row and said “I appreciate the desire, but the Internet doesn’t need any more videos of us Irish lads floating about, so can we sing a song for you without a lens between us?”

Somehow Noonan’s bold move worked. The band didn’t miss a beat or ruin the vibe of the show. Instead of making it an awkward moment, it was a move that actually took the mood of the set deeper—despite a few stubborn fans that still didn’t get Noonan’s hint to put away their digitized detractions and technological distractions.

Surging the set forward during the folk-pop anthem “The Great Defector”, a pocket of fans showed love for Bell X1’s homeland by breaking out an Irish flag and waving it with pride during the chorus. From there the buzz continued to build throughout the venue as the band traversed through the final songs.

Like they do throughout Blue Lights on the Runway, Bell X1, layer by layer, peeled back the emotional epidermis of fans so all that remained at the end of the show couldn’t be captured on video or shared on the Internet. Far beyond the end of the show and into the night, the songs continued to burrow deep and swift, confirming the fact that these Irish lads know exactly how our hearts and minds are wired.





12 Essential Performances from New Orleans' Piano "Professors"

New Orleans music is renowned for its piano players. Here's a dozen jams from great Crescent City keyboardists, past and present, and a little something extra.


Jess Williamson Reimagines the Occult As Source Power on 'Sorceress'

Folk singer-songwriter, Jess Williamson wants listeners to know magic is not found in tarot cards or mass-produced smudge sticks. Rather, transformative power is deeply personal, thereby locating Sorceress as an indelible conveyor of strength and wisdom.

By the Book

Flight and Return: Kendra Atleework's Memoir, 'Miracle Country'

Although inconsistent as a memoir, Miracle Country is a breathtaking environmental history. Atleework is a shrewd observer and her writing is a gratifying contribution to the desert-literature genre.


Mark Olson and Ingunn Ringvold Celebrate New Album With Performance Video (premiere)

Mark Olson (The Jayhawks) and Ingunn Ringvold share a 20-minute performance video that highlights their new album, Magdalen Accepts the Invitation. "This was an opportunity to perform the new songs and pretend in a way that we were still going on tour because we had been so looking forward to that."


David Grubbs and Taku Unami Collaborate on the Downright Riveting 'Comet Meta'

Comet Meta is a brilliant record full of compositions and moments worthy of their own accord, but what's really enticing is that it's not only by David Grubbs but of him. It's perhaps the most emotive, dream-like, and accomplished piece of Grubbsian experimental post-rock.


On Their 2003 Self-Titled Album, Buzzcocks Donned a Harder Sound and Wore it With Style and Taste

Buzzcocks, the band's fourth album since their return to touring in 1989, changed their sound but retained what made them great in the first place

Reading Pandemics

Chaucer's Plague Tales

In 18 months, the "Great Pestilence" of 1348-49 killed half of England's population, and by 1351 half the population of the world. Chaucer's plague tales reveal the conservative edges of an astonishingly innovative medieval poet.


Country's Jaime Wyatt Gets in Touch With Herself on 'Neon Cross'

Neon Cross is country artist Jaime Wyatt's way of getting in touch with all the emotions she's been going through. But more specifically, it's about accepting both the past and the present and moving on with pride.


Counterbalance 17: Public Enemy - 'It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back'

Hip-hop makes its debut on the Big List with Public Enemy’s meaty, beaty manifesto, and all the jealous punks can’t stop the dunk. Counterbalance’s Klinger and Mendelsohn give it a listen.


Sondre Lerche and the Art of Radical Sincerity

"It feels strange to say it", says Norwegian pop artist Sondre Lerche about his ninth studio album, "but this is the perfect time for Patience. I wanted this to be something meaningful in the middle of all that's going on."


How the Template for Modern Combat Journalism Developed

The superbly researched Journalism and the Russo-Japanese War tells readers how Japan pioneered modern techniques of propaganda and censorship in the Russo-Japanese War.


From Horrifying Comedy to Darkly Funny Horror: Bob Clark Films

What if I told you that the director of one of the most heartwarming and beloved Christmas movies of all time is the same director as probably the most terrifying and disturbing yuletide horror films of all time?

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.