Live music - O Emperor/ Ger Wolfe

Mitchelstown Caves

Stripped to their barest semi-acoustic shells, O Emperor’s harmony-laden songs stood up well to sharp focus that comes with playing in church-like silence of Mitchelstown Caves.

Waterford’s finest raided the darker corners of their back catalogue for mellower material than they’d normally feature in live shows. They raided well.’ Soft In The Head’, ‘It Only Comes To Pass’ and ‘To The Sea’ all wowed the enthusiastic fans that journeyed deep beneath the earth’s crust for them last Friday night.

This band’s instrumentation is so intricate and inventive that you’d easily be distracted from their brilliant vocal harmonies — immense in the snippet of the Beatles’ ‘Because’ which they stitched into ‘Heisenberg’, and again on their homage to Peter, Paul and Mary on their version of Gordon Lightfoot’s ‘Early Morning Rain’.

The harmonies also soared on ‘Po’, ‘Don’t Mind Me’. Their use of unusual chord progressions has propelled them to an audience that crosses age categories. Their open tunings and suspended fifths seemed very much at home among these epic stalactites and stalagmites; unusual songs that deserve time, reflection and a vault of protection.

The caves also seemed like an ideal setting for Ger Wolfe’s mellow tunes and imagery of the sun, beach, rain and birds. The audience warmed to his songs ‘I Have Been Loved’, ‘They Dance When It Rains’ and ‘When I Was Hungry’.

After two hours chilling at 12 degrees, Ger also got a laugh for his observation that all this unique venue needs is a van selling chips and curry — though the post-show glass of bubbly was even better.

This fourth annual trip 88 steep steps beneath the earth’s surface was a triumph for hosts Carraig Productions and Cork Opera House. I’m told that Delorentos and Sam Brookes were excellent on Saturday, and that Mick Flannery and the Young Folk went down a storm on the Sunday.

Great intimate setting, fantastic acoustics and beautifully understated hosting, it’s hardly surprising that this is such a fast seller every year. Epic stuff, more of the same please.


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