Kodaline didnâ€™t play CMJ Music Marathon so much as they sprinted it. The Irish indie rockersâ€™ debut album, In a Perfect World, was recently released in America, and they made the most of their time in New York by playing showcases and doing promo galore. They would have been forgiven for being exhausted at 2 on a Saturday afternoon, but the group performed an energetic, gracious set.
Their hard work through the week clearly paid off as fans packed the downstairs room of Pianos, which was already claustrophobic with equipment for all the bands in the showcase. Kodalineâ€™s brand of rock is emotional and atmospheric, guitar-driven but made graceful with sweeping, layered vocals from all four band members. Heartache abounds within the lyrics, but the music swells up in such a joyous way that you canâ€™t help but feel uplifted.
The band members were clearly in high spirits as they navigated the tiny stage with humble laughs. Lead singer Steve Garrigan juggled duties on acoustic guitar, keyboards, and, on the contagiously upbeat â€œLove Like This,â€ both harmonica and mandolin, while guitarist Mark Prendergrast also divided his time between his main instrument and keyboards. Some songs, like â€œAll Comes Downâ€ and â€œAll I Want,â€ were delicate enough to showcase the strength of the bandâ€™s soulful vocals and clear Irish folk roots. Other moments, like the keyboard-driven â€œAfter the Fallâ€ and â€œWay Back Whenâ€ had the audience dancing as much as possible in the cramped conditions. Surprisingly, the bandâ€™s breakout hit â€œHigh Hopesâ€ was tucked in the middle of the set. Whether this was done out of confidence or just for the sake of flow, it worked.
As much as I enjoy In a Perfect World, I was surprised to find that Kodaline sound even better live. Their vocals show a little less restraint, and they are clearly a group of young men having fun seeing the world and making people happy. In this writerâ€™s humble opinion, thatâ€™s the best sort of band to take in live.