There was really no avoiding it. Paul Noonan decided it was time to address the elephant in the room.
To be precise, the large beast was at that moment in the much larger room of the Cork Opera House.
“So you were unlucky not to get Hozier tickets?” says Noonan. Listing the many long departed Cork venues his band Bell X1 have played on their way up the ladder, such as Nancy Spain’s and The Lobby, Noonan announced with mock indignation: “You have to pay your dues.”
Those who had elected to take themselves to Christchurch couldn’t feel they got second best. This intimate show saw Noonan, accompanied by long-time sparring partner Gemma Hayes, do justice to his equally intimate album of duets released under the name Printer Clips, recorded over a number of years and featuring a stellar line up of female vocalists such as Joan As Policewoman, Martha Wainwright and Lisa Hannigan.
It was with Hayes’s duet from the album, ‘The Snowman’, with which they opened the show. With its gentle intricate guitar play and close keening harmonies, their gossamer vocals fused and fell like softly falling snowflakes. The inclusion of the Hayes track ‘Keep Running’ added a jolt to proceedings. Her scratchy playing immediately suggesting the presence of feedback and pounding drums, a feeling accentuated by her soaring vocals. Bell X1 was represented by a cover of ‘Rocky Took A Lover’. A hushed carol, its references to wise men, Jesus, gutters and being an asshole when drunk made this possibly the second greatest male- female Christmas duet ever.
For the encore, Noonan sat at a piano to play the affecting ‘Hole In Her Heart’, before Hayes joined him for a cover of Kate Bush’s‘Cloudbusting’. And to quote the song, something good really did happen.