“Words can’t say how much I love these boys” announces Murder Capital frontman James McGovern to the Brudenell crowd, before punchlining “I just hope we’re all still friends after the inquest”.
A long sold out room absorbs his pitch black humour, but the quip adds to a collective air of uncertainty that loiters at first about how to receive the Dubliners, a wariness of their vigour, of stagecraft that borders on performance art, of the dark, muscular and occasionally brutal undertow to their wildly flowing music.
McGovern knows this and he and his cohorts feed off it. There is an ambiguity to The Murder Capital, juxtapositions laid out like old bones in a coffin on their stunning debut album When I Have Fears; it’s songs are mostly uplifting, almost spiritual, but many of them come from a fascination with death, whilst veering in tone between rugged ambience and wrath.
Part of their self created mythos is in gradually revealing oneself, a quality underlined in an expertly paced set, which begins with the conjoined twins Slowdance I & II before the swimming the mesmeric patterns of On Twisted Ground and Love Love Love. It’s a grip which then conspicuously tightens as the quintet ratchet up the intensity, McGovern cajoling the audience to return the energy blasting offstage, at one point backflipping off it without warning into a pit of sweat soaked bodies who’ve been grinding relentlessly to Feeling Fades, More is Less and the electric snarl of For Everything.
It’s the sort of spontaneity that can result in disaster, when so much of The Murder Capital’s performance runs thick with power and control. It works of course, because they own tonight and all of it’s portents, the utter belief in what they’re doing like that of young country prophets sermonising a hundred years ago. They leave without an encore, yet having enrolled another 300 new disciples.