Review: Kodaline @ O2 Apollo, Manchester

As Storm Desmond raged outside, a close-to-capacity O2 Apollo was teaming with jittery teenage girls, undeterred by the gale force winds blasting the North of England.

When Steve Garrigan – whose jawline and sweeping haircut make him look like he’s ready to sing for his place at the X Factor judges’ houses – arrives on stage, it seems fairly evident what at least, in part, inspires such committed fandom. 

Following an enjoyably synth imbued All Tvvins, Kodaline kicked off proceedings with the appropriately named Ready, a song that almost reminds me of The Killers circa Hot Fuss.

Importantly, it’s a tune with a big, stadium ready, sing-along chorus – a theme that would become evident throughout the night as being crucial to Kodaline’s pull. 

It’s a slick set. Each song feels like it could be a single, and with only two albums worth of material to choose from, it’s perhaps no wonder that the crowd are able to act as choir at any given moment.

In fact, Garrigan lets the audience take the reins so often that at one point a man not far from me said to his partner, ‘I want to hear him sing!’ 

But the easy to remember choruses, pull at your heartstrings melodies, and Mumford and Sons-esque use of the mandolin, is what Kodaline are all about.

It is 90 minutes of ‘Folk for Absolute Beginners’ and it is undeniably effective. 

Garrigan himself doesn’t talk much – when he does it’s to tell the crowd their singing is ‘beautiful’ or to shout ‘Manchester!’ (I lose track of just how many times he addresses the city, but it’s enough to make for a dangerous drinking game).

The One, written as a wedding gift for a friend, is the Richard Curtis track of the night, complete with iPhone lights in the air and lyrics that my 15-year-old self would have scrawled in the back of her maths book.

For the hundreds swaying on their feet downstairs, this is clearly a ‘moment’ – one that my circle seat arguably detracts a little from as I feel more like a theatre-going listener rather than a fervent participant.

These sound like complaints; but they’re compliments, too.

Love Like This is the perfect summer romance anthem and Way Back When is filled with the kind of nostalgia for a past that most of the crowd haven’t even lived yet.

Maybe there’s a certain element of calculation to these songs, but that doesn’t mean that the emotion they evoke should be belittled. 

Even though at times I find myself wanting something a little rawer or off the cuff, by the end of the night it’s not hard to see why so many are infatuated with what Kodaline deliver.

They’re masters of the rousing anthem and for now, at least, it seems like it’s certainly working for them.

Image courtesy of Kathi Rudminat, with thanks. 

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