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Concert Review by Kris Griffiths

The Forum, London – 24 October 2002

It wasn’t long ago one could hear Mark Greaney pitifully wailing “Why won’t it snow?” from the output of several commercial radio stations. I distinctly remember opening my curtains one morning a couple of months later, clocking the half-inch layer of snow on the ground, and thinking not about Christmas, toboggans or snowball fights, but Mark Greaney pitifully wailing “Why won’t it snow?”. This will invariably happen every time I see the occasional descent of white stuff in this country, which evinces to me the evocative power of Mark’s voice and the symphonic sound behind him. Snow, however, too easily turns into sludge.

The nice Irish trio have come along, well, nicely in the couple of years since it last snowed, whilst their following has quite literally snowballed. When I last saw them, preceding headliners Muse at the V2001 festival, their quality was wasted on a scattered rain-soaked crowd of Muse fans. A year later they have somehow filled London’s Forum to its high rafters and have a lot of crowd pleasing on their hands. Sometimes it is difficult to see how youth compensates for lack of experience.

It is both their youth and lack of experience that emanates from the performance this evening from the moment they sidle onstage in a manner I can only describe as tentative. Maybe the sheer size of the crowd threw them off balance; maybe it was the orchestral version of Metallica’s NOTHING ELSE MATTERS that was piped in to mark their entry. After getting the melodic stomp of OCTOBER SWIMMER out of the way, the trio slumps into a tempo-less line of material from new album I TO SKY. The crowd slumps from enthusiasm to ennui.

Even upon returning to favourites from their self-titled debut album, something about them is somewhat askew. SNOW flies past a little too swiftly whilst ALGERIA gets swamped in poorly engineered distortion. Neither sounds particularly pleasing. Only OXYGEN reaches the anthemic heights its predecessors couldn’t even contemplate. By the time the encore trundles along Mark and Hilary have become as unanimated as the spectators and a dreary cover version of Chris Isaak’s WICKED GAME really doesn’t help their cause. Recent single FORMULAE, a musical cousin of OXYGEN, is the only other peak in a continuous trough.

The band do their pounding heavy rock thing for the usual finale but Mark tonight can’t even be bothered to smash up his guitar, settling instead for a feeble upward throw that doesn’t even break a tuning knob as it hits the floor. As they trudge offstage and the crowd trudge homewards, it is with a collective premature weariness recognising that this lot have a long way to go before approaching their peak, before the outline is even in sight through the early haze. I’ll give them until the next snowfall.