Review: Choice Music Prize, Vicar Street, Dublin

Live music: Choice Music Prize, Vicar Street, Dublin

“When are the lads going to get the recognition they deserve,” asks one of the many voices that populate Jason, the third and final record by Waterford via Cork band O Emperor, which has won the RTÉ Choice Music Prize for Irish album of the year.

Taking place on Thursday in Vicar Street, Dublin, it was the best possible way to go out. The five piece had opened the night, with nine of the ten nominated acts performing, playing three songs each.

Jason is a weird but rewarding 34 minutes. They started with the groovy ‘Bogey Wonderland’, a rich, building five minutes and the highlight of the album, and ended with the stomping ‘Make It Rain’. Vicar Street was still filling up as they finished their set — it felt apt; people are still playing catch up with O Emperor.

Saint Sister had seemed like the potential consensus winner — Shape of Silence is a delightful album — and their performance got the biggest reaction from the sold-out crowd on the night. ‘Twin Peaks’ is sumptuous; the harmonies from Gemma Doherty and Morgan McIntyre have been tightly honed in between tours of North America — it wouldn’t be surprising if they’re back headlining Vicar Street later in the year. ‘Causing Trouble’ also sounded much bigger than its album version, Doherty not missing a beat — a string? — while playing the harp and singing.

It’s testament to the current strength and diversity of the Irish music scene that there are no dud performances at the event, the only damp squib being the absent Picture This winning song of the year.

Whether it’s Conor O’Brien playing a solo Villagers set, silencing everyone with that swoonsome voice, or Kojaque putting on a demonstration of love and braggadocio, and sharing a glass of red wine with his DJ on the biggest stage they’ve performed on to date, Irish music had its annual night in the spotlight and shone bright. The Choice Prize shortlist was among the strongest in its 14-year history — and O Emperor finally got the recognition they deserved.

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