His New Atlas Single Launch with support from Susie Blue & Rebekah Wilson
Monday 16th February 2015 – The Oh Yeah Music Centre, Belfast
A bit of hype and build up. That’s what plenty of artists look to do when promoting a launch. For the launch of the new single from His New Atlas the build up has been huge, with a countdown and plenty of updates from the man behind His New Atlas, Eoghan O’Hagan. He has been building a name for himself over here, and has taken the big step of a few shows across the water. Any follower of his will have seen the work and drive behind his progress, and must have been tempted to check out the latest marker of this, his single launch for ‘Broken Mirrors’.
Alongside His New Atlas at the Oh Yeah Centre were two bright young talents in the Northern Irish music scene. First to the stage in front of a intimate but dedicated audience was Rebekah Wilson. Rebekah is well known enough, even outside her own music, as an ardent supporter of local music.
With no introduction Rebekah, armed firstly with her electric guitar, starts into her first song ‘One Day More’. With it’s lyrics of heartache and singer-songwriter pop style it’s the perfect embodiment of Rebekah’s sound. As is her new single, ‘Nothing (You and Me)’ which also gets an airing tonight. Given Rebekah’s young age it’s no surprise that she seems a little nervous but a couple of songs in and you can hear her grow in confidence as her voice rises. A few songs in, the electric guitar is ditched for an acoustic before Rebekah plays a couple of songs on keyboard. The last song of her set, ‘Mangled Dreams’ is preceded by a lovely piano rendition of Jimmy Eat World’s ‘Work’.
With an EP on the horizon in April it will be interesting to see the response. Still young and inexperienced, Rebekah’s talent will grow, and with her enthusiasm for local music she will surely make a mark.
A few songs into the next set and it is clear to see how fitting a support Susie Blue is for His New Atlas. Like the latter, Susie Blue has an alternative twist to her sound and look that sets her apart.
For tonight, and for the first time Susie is accompanied by electronic beats and synth, provided by John. There’s a variety of sounds in Susie’s music; her second song of the night ‘May 9th’ is a stunning romantic ballad. With its chorus of “You and Me”, it’s reminiscent of the Lifehouse song by the same name. Like the Lifehouse song it sticks with you.
It’s on songs like ‘May 9th” and ‘Trust Me’, the title track of Susie’s upcoming EP, that Susie’s talent comes through. Musically her electric guitar and the backing of electronic rhythms and synth sounds combine for a great sound, but once warmed up, it’s Susie’s voice that’s the draw. On her sad songs about relationships and desires, Susie’s voice is alluring and dynamic. There’s a genuine vulnerability that bring out the depth of feeling behind Susie’s songs.
There is much melancholy in Susie Blue’s songs including the saddest she’s ever written, ending on the line “I guess this is the end”, but the set is bookended by two similar sounding tracks that stand out from the rest. The first, ‘Lisbeth’ has an unexpected swagger and edge to it, and more than a hint of threat within the lyrics.
Susie may have apologised for the sadness of her songs but the emotional heavyweight of the night has got to be His New Atlas. Eoghan is accompanied by some sparse percussion, his usual foil Luc McParland on piano and, for tonight, violin and cello.
There’s no easing into it here, from the very first notes on Eoghan’s churchly there’s only one way the evening is going – we’re in for a night of emotional intensity. The addition of the string section adds to the melody and fills out what is usually a very desolate soundscape. The sense of isolation and sadness brought forth by Eoghan’s guitar playing is multiplied many times over by his vocals and lyrics, with many songs feeling like vehicles for his voice. When Eoghan exerts the immense control he has over his voice it feels like something is trying to get out. Away from the songs he is talkative and likeable but when he’s in the moment there is a lot of emotional energy moving through him. With lyrics about broken homes, and “Dear Mother, stop your crying”, it is hard hitting and dark. It rarely lets up. Engaging with the performance tonight almost feels intrusive but there is reward for those in the audience who embrace this intensity.
More often than not it is the variations and extra touches that make a show special. So when Eoghan steps away from the stage, in amongst the crowd, and puts on his acoustic guitar for a track the audience are all ears. Back on stage Eoghan treats us to his new single’s b side, ‘Skeleton’. Comparisons have unsurprisingly been drawn to Jeff Buckley, even by our own Al Gilmore in his review of ‘His Young’. On ‘Skeleton’ the comparisons are undeniable. Eoghan’s falsetto is at its peak, this is Buckley’s ‘Corpus Christi Carol’ territory.
With the audience immersed, and no doubt feeling it emotionally, the last song of the night from His New Atlas is the new single, ‘Broken Mirrors’. Where most of the songs are quiet and hopeless, ‘Broken Mirrors’ is bombastic and powerful with its refrain of “why can’t I just breathe”. It’s rare to see an artist improve song by song but this looks to be the case with ‘Broken Mirrors’, it could surely be a closer for many shows to come.
Throughout the show you feel this one is important for His New Atlas’ Eoghan O’Hagan, its his first headliner and the launch of an exciting new single, on the eve of a few England dates. It is exciting for Northern Irish music too. All three acts on the night are young, talented artists. Eoghan’s determination and drive matched with the emotional depth of his music will hopefully see him go far.