Reviews

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.

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image