Sunday, July 3, 2011

Half Shot @Tower Records Saturday 02 July 2011- Review

Gig Review
Half Shot at Tower Records Dublin
June 2nd 2011

I had made a commitment to review Half Shot live after I had caught only the last half of their single launch in Crawdaddy a few weeks previous (for which I temporarily lifted my boycott on that awful, awful place). So it seemed a fitting compromise to review their performance when their debut single was put on the shelves of Tower Records.

I get to the record shop, probably my favourite around town, at about five past four knowing the lads were due to play at four. I wander down to the rear of the shop and have a quick word with lead guitarist Heaps who informs me that they were held up in traffic and are still setting up their gear. So I say I'll have a quick gander around and come back for the gig and begin browsing through the book shelves.

A quick word on Tower Records: it was probably just four of five years ago now since I was first introduced to the shop but I have to give it its dues. Between consistently reasonable prices, one of the best display setups and a notable dedication to local recording artists, not to mention the book and magazine section, I have always thought that it was the best of the major record shops in Dublin.

So for a few minutes I look at the books on offer; a biography of Hunter S. Thompson catches my eye, as does this months Guitarist magazine which I read until I hear the familiar atonal noises and shifty volume of a sound check. I join the back of the small crowd that gathers in the aisles of the vinyl section while Half Shot deliver about two minutes worth of 'Couldn't Back Down', after which drummer Luke informs the crowd, who had just begun to get into it, “We were only sound checking, sorry!” to which the crowd responded with a few laughs. After a quick introduction from frontman Leo, the band launch into the first of a five song set,'You See'. A sly, delayed natural harmonic (forgive the guitar player jargon) piece from Leo is matched by some low E string riding riffing courtesy of Heaps which itself gives way to a wah flavoured lead break which we would find out over the course of this gig, is a mainstay of Heaps'. A few technical issues with Leo's mic take nothing away from the performance: at small gigs if you just turn up the amps and shout loud enough, often there is little need for a PA. At times I think it adds a sort of 'band-at-your-gaff' vibe to the whole thing.

Third on the list is 'Long Grass' and this track has Classic Rock written all over it! Luke ushers us into the song with an old fashioned punk rock style floor tom beat, followed closely by a bright, crunchy riff of Heaps' that if it were a food it would probably be a Twix. Leo let's some serious pipes make equally serious sounds right from the get-go on this one and bass player Ben keeps it nice and chocolaty with a satisfying low rumble throughout, thus completing the Twix analogy. When men with beards in the crowd are moving, however subtly, in time with the music, then a rock band can know that it's doing something right!

The end of a relatively short set is nearing so Half Shot lash into the theme of the day: the single! The unmistakable clear twang of a Stratocaster brings the album version  of 'Couldn't Back Down' to life with a slow intense build-up. Heaps' gets his money's worth from his Les Paul, keeping the riffing non-stop, most noticeably with the lick laid over the chorus which gives a sense of vastness in its interplay with Leo's vocal. Add to this the spacey sounds which a dash of Flanger effect lend to the climax. Underneath, Luke keeps things moving smoothly along on the ride, permeating the beat with hard snare fills. Altogether it soon becomes obvious why this one was chosen for the single.

To conclude this gig we are given the seriously-southern-sounding 'Moonbather', the 'b-side' of the single. Leo's band mates start up a sarcastic cheer as he puts down his guitar and leaves that duty to Heaps and Ben. The former lays straight into an old-school open chord riff joined quickly by Luke and Ben. Leo takes the chance to break out his bluesiest vocal yet and a few frontman moves to compliment it, backed up on those vocals by brother Heaps. Ben keeps the sound thick and full, even during Heaps' sparse lead breaks, with a bass tone of tremendous depth and clarity.

The small crowd that the vinyl section could accommodate appear properly entertained by the end. Keeping casual record shop by-passers' attention is no easy task but the men with beards (I suppose including myself) were impressed, as was everyone else. The band shifted a few cds in the process and packed up quickly to head down to The Workman's Club for the second gig of the day. All in all, a cracking set: the band showed no signs of being put off by the short set or small stage, which is often enough to scare bands that prefer on the anonymity of bright lights and big stages into mediocre performances. The only down side is that small daytime gigs tend to lack atmosphere, buzz, but then I can't imagine Tower would want a large crowd cutting loose and going mad at the end of their shop! The band are keeping a tight gig schedule so you'll have plenty of opportunity to check 'em out on the Dublin circuit if you like what you've read here.

Half Shot at Tower Records
Rating: 8/10
For fans of: Thin Lizzy, ACDC
By Edward Gerard Brophy
For Born Again Nihilist 2011
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