Seeing O Emperor in the cosy confines of Auntie Annie's promises to be a memorable show. The Waterford band made a big first impression supporting Mumford and Sons at the Mandela Hall, and debut album Hither Thither lives up to this promise.
The crowd wait in anticipation as O Emperor take to the stage, doing their own quick sound check, gliding straight into one of the quieter tracks from the album, 'All Worked Out'. Led by Phil Christie's piano, the layered harmony creates a subtly glorious opener.
Auntie Annie's is comfortably busy and the crowd are clearly connoisseurs of the music, captivated from the start. The band follow up with 'Po', which jauntily rolls out the tale of poor Mr. Po, a nobody sat upon by the state. An existential tale for our times, perhaps. So far so good; despite the quick set up and the layered complexity of the songs, everything blends and we are loving it.
Having thought that 'Po' would be kept as a late big hitter, it's a pleasant surprise when the set continues to grow in power. 'Ghost Fire', a track from an early EP, is energetic and intense. 'Don't Mind Me' gets an enthusiastic response, and 'December' follows, starting quietly and building up to some blistering guitar from Alan Comerford. Vocalist Paul Savage tells us that it's one of the earliest songs to make it on to Hither Thither, impressive given the quality and depth of the track. Chat from the stage is friendly if short and slightly shy, but contributes to a wonderfully intimate evening.
The set gets respect, we're locked in and lost in each song, and applause is enthusiastic. Before 'The Fat Lady Sings' brings things to a close, the band excel on 'Taloned Air', a dark tale delivered with passion, and the exuberant 'Don Quixote'.
Seeing a band of this quality in a small and comfortable venue is the treat it promised to be, new material standing up well amongst the familiar. The brilliant and engaging songs from Hither Thither deliver lush, layered music from a guitar band of exceptional talent.