The Coronas At The Echo, Friday November 17th 2017
‘No One is a Prophet in their Own Land’ we always say, but the Coronas make the common expression lie. In their native Ireland, they fill up 15,000-seat arenas or even bigger venues, they have been the opening act for Paul McCartney at the RDS Arena in Dublin in 2010, and for Justin Timberlake in 2013, performing in front of 40,000 people. However, outside of Ireland, the Coronas are used to another setting, they play in the comfort of small clubs of a few hundreds, but they don’t seem bitter about it. On the contrary, they looked very happy to be at the Echo on Friday night, playing in front of an ecstatic Irish crowd. Who would have thought there were so many Irish people living in LA?
The scene was something to witness, all these Dublin girls were excited to be getting so close to their idols, whereas they usually have to share them with a crowd of 10,000. People were overjoyed by the experience and the girl behind me kept begging me to let her go in the front, because she ‘loooooved Danny O’Reilly’ so much’. And when some of these girls finally managed to make their way to the front, they were constantly stretching their arms toward O’ Reilly who was switching from guitar to keys with ease. He promised one of them they would have a chat later on, ‘I’m not going to interrupt the show right now!’ he said while looking at the girl who seemed to have won the lottery.
But if you are like me and have never heard of him, just google his name and you will find numerous tabloid links leading to stories all over his love life. Danny, whose mother is singer Mary Black (a famous traditional folk singer) and sister is folk singer Roisin O, is an unpretentious hottie who used to date London-based MTV host Laura Whitmore and Irish model Holly Carpenter, and his recent material is said to have been inspired by one of his high profile break-ups. Doesn’t this sound like an Irish version of Taylor Swift? I guess this generation is only interested by songs about breakups.
The Coronas have been around for 10 years, they have released five studio albums through their own independent record label 3ù Records, and they are a very Irish story. Their fifth studio album ‘Trust The Wire’ got recently shot to No. 1 in Ireland and this tells you enough about their success, and after such local fame, the fact that they are still playing small venues in the US remains a mystery.
Two bands opened the night, first Oliver Riot, an identical twin duo (Benjamin and Alexander Moore), who played a low-key set of slow-paced guitar music with a R&B dreamy vibe in the vocals before ending with a Django Reinhardt cover. They were followed by yOya, a folk electronic duo with heartfelt songs, sweet harmonies and a sound floating between organic-breezy melodies and dynamic beats. But both bands were well aware they were playing in front of a Coronas-lover-crowd, they were obviously not the heroes of the day, but they were ready to take all this Irish love, and why wouldn’t they have wanted to?
Frontman Danny O’Reilly, Dave McPhillips, Conor Egan, Graham Knox, and a fifth member on a second keyboard took the stage like humble heroes, the crowd was shouting and screaming so hard, I realized they were a mini phenomenon at this moment. Most of their songs had a very radio-friendly tone, and of course the crowd around me knew all the lyrics, even those of the new songs, that they sang along from start to finish. After a few songs, I realized the Irish band’s pop music had a very emo vibe, sung by a vibrant choir, while most of the young people around me were holding a fist on their chest during the singalong. You necessarily have to respect a band which manages to connect on such a deep emotional level with its fans.
But you can’t invent an Irish band with a guy named O’ Reilly and a moniker that sounds like a beer – they actually named themselves after a beer, no mystery there. The Coronas are transparent, they write sincere and uncomplicated pop songs, mostly about love, friendship and breakups and on Friday night they were truly enjoying the love while O’Reilly felt so at ease in a small club that he didn’t hesitate to take a bath in the very enthusiastic crowd mid-show, for a campfire version of ‘Heroes or Ghosts’, the title track from their 2007 album.
Their fervent pop music is layered with guitar and synth, which sometimes gives them a retro vibe à la A-ha, but they cover a variety of styles, from quiet ballad-type tunes to more dynamic ones, with that kind of bombast that made this other Irish band so famous,… not that they got anywhere close to U2 rocking stadium level, but their songs always sounded radio friendly, from contemporary emotive pop to a fuller sound that you could easily imagine being blasted from every Irish pub, at least this is the feeling I got when they did ‘Get Loose’ or the key-driven ‘Addicted to Progress’. ‘Dreaming Again’ had even an obvious song-for-drinking-beer folksy tone, and their anthems, with their hooky choruses, were all performed with the same ardor, led by O’ Reilly’s strong croon. As the band was brushing their five albums, the energy in the room barely went down, soaring choruses kept their glory till the end, and beer-drinking didn’t slow down for a second. But what else would you expect from an Irish crowd?
Addicted to Progress
A Bit Withdrawn
Who We Are
We Couldn’t Fake It
Heroes or Ghosts
Some Else’s Hands
Closer to You
What a Love
The Long Way
Mark My Words
Give Me a Minute
All the Others
San Diego Song
Just Like That