attended the Microdisney farewell gig at Cyprus Avenue in Cork
When Microdisney last played Cork in the mid-1980s you’d imagine much of the pre-gig chatter in the audience revolved around college, signing-on and the Slatterys bus to England. Lives have been lived in the intervening three decades, and as the band finally return to their birthplace for a farewell appearance following a 12-month stint back together, there’s an atmosphere of school reunion in the air.
The full house of mostly 50-something males at the impressively re-vamped venue are treated to a two-hour set spanning the group's 1984-88 heyday. And while the 22-song tracklist mirrors the previous night's Vicar Street concert in Dublin, singer Cathal Coughlan knows he doesn't have to explain where Daunt Square is when he's relating the tale of how he composed 'Pink Skinned Man' with guitarist Sean O'Hagan in a flat above the old McCarthy's bakery.
Much of the early part of the set is taken up with tracks from The Clock Comes Down The Stairs, the 1985 album on the Rough Trade label that stands as their finest long-player. With the band swelled to a seven piece tonight, complete with female vocalist, those tunes sound as solid as ever, giving fans plenty ammunition for their 'shoulda-been-bigger' argument.
Legend has it that much of Microdisney's problem was that they didn't quite 'fit' with the musical moods of the time. Sure, Coughlan's anger and cynicism chimed with the post-punk scene that spawned him – for example, the opening lines of 'United Colours': 'There’s nothing wrong with the young would-be rich, That a head full of lead would not cure.”
What people didn't quite get was the marriage of such acerbic lyrics to the guitar style O'Hagan had absorbed from Californian pop and country music.
It's just one of several factors that scuppered international success back then, but the flipside is that much of their music has enjoyed a longetivity that some of their bigger contemporaries didn't achieve. This is particularly apparent with the two tunes that finish tonight's main set, 'Singer's Hampstead Home' and 'Town to Town'. So bitter, so catchy... and the mass singalong underlines why either could still be hits today.
Coughlan gives a deserved shout-out to RTE's John Creedon for helping to keep the band in the public ear through the years, and as they wave farewell from the stage they look genuinely chuffed. A celebratory hometown gig really does feel like the perfect way to close the latest – and possibly final - chapter.