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LIVE REVIEW: Kodaline w/ Gavin James, New York, NY

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static1.squarespaceThere’s nothing to clear up the sinuses quite like a room packed with 3,000 swooning girls and 150 minutes of guitar-driven torch ballads.

Just four years old, Kodaline is already at the peak of its game– putting on a tightly-wound, 16-song set list for all the feisty ladies of Manhattan.  The indie-rock Irish quartet has been on the road for the better part of three years now to support their critically acclaimed debut, In A Perfect World, and follow-up album, Coming Up for Air, where they blended emotionally charged and radio-friendly anthems with Euro electronic synths (a combo heavily inspired and elevated by their producer Jacknife Lee, known for his work with U2, Snow Patrol and One Direction).

Last night (April 25) at New York’s Terminal 5, it was not about Kodaline bridging a gap in musical history. It was about the group stepping out of its commercial shadows and claiming their own time with their high-energy enthusiasm, innocent charm and power pop-folk harmonies.

The show began well before the music. The crowd hustled into the venue at 7 p.m.– two hours prior to Kodaline’s scheduled stage time and right as the doors opened. By the time the opening act, Gavin James, walked on to the stage at 8 p.m., Terminal 5 was filled to the brim—couples pressed against the balcony’s edge, as teenagers on the ground floor slithered their way through the crowd to the front of the stage to catch a better view of the Irish crooner. Setting the tone for the night, James, known for his supporting tours with the likes of Ingrid Michaelson, Marina & The Diamonds and James Blunt, fumbled through a 40-minute set of acoustic guitar tracks, pausing between each song to talk the crowd through his set list. He concluded his act with a blistering round of applause and cheers from the audience, which he reciprocated by shouting back: “Thank you so much for that, guys. Enjoy Kodaline!”

After a 20-minute layover, Kodaline were finally cued onto the stage as a stream of royal purple lights shot down on to the stage. Met with a hysteria of girl screams, Kodaline slid right into the electronic storm of its latest hit “Ready”, which segued into tenderhearted chants of “Love Like This”, a gem from the group’s first album featuring a soft harmonica breakaway and mandolin-driven rhythm. In a call-and-response fashion, drummer Vinny May puttered through the chorus’ drum sequence as frontman Steve Garrigan encouraged the crowd to join in (“As loud as you can, New York”) before howling out, “I know that a love like this won’t last forever/But I, I don’t really mind/ I don’t really mind at all.”

Stopping only briefly to check up with the audience, Kodaline hopped from songs everybody likes (“Way Back When”, “One Day”) to songs hardly anybody ever notices (“Unclear”), dipping into electronic charge of their new album in tracks like “Lost” between deep cuts of its classic, Coldplay-inspired ballads (“High Hopes”, “The One”). Bassist Jason Boland and guitarist Mark Prendergast used song breakdowns to clap in the crowd, giving each song a whole new flavor for its live performance.

Lesser known Kodaline tracks that sound “safe” and thin in their CD version, like “Love Will Set You Free” and “Brand New Day”, were elevated in by the environment of a live performance, May feeding off the audience’s energy as he churned through each song’s drum loops, only heightening the guitar lines and Garrigan’s melodic tone. Meanwhile, fan classics, such as the  “All Comes Down” receives a gospel-like feel as the once plinky sounds of a piano turn into a full, lustrous hook line .

The set list climaxed in the group’s encore, which was kicked off by the synth-rock epic from Coming Up For Air, “Honest”. Driven by a over-the-top buzz synth-line and churning guitars, Garrigan charged through the track at high-speed, only shifting in tone for the song’s barreling chorus: “Say what you want to say/but if you lie to me again/I’ll be the one who walks away/ is it in you to be honest?”. The band continued with their introspective efforts, gliding into “Big Bad World”, and finally, the moment the crowd had all been waiting for: “All I Want.” Boland and Prendergast perfected the song’s slow build up, while Garrigan hit the track’s falsetto notes with an unbelievable power from a singer who’d already been wailing for over an hour, until the music faded, and all that remained was a wave of applause from the satisfied audience. 

Set List:

1. “Ready”

2. “Love Like This”

3. “Way Back When”

4. “Unclear”

5. “One Day”

6. “Lost”

7. “High Hopes”

8. “Coming Alive”

9. “The One”

10. “All Comes Down”

11. “Play The Game”

12. “Brand New Day”

13. “Love Will Set You Free”

14. “Honest”

15. “Big Bad World”

16. “All I Want”

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Marissa Framarini

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