Live reviews: 1997


Irish Times: Olympia Theatre, 17 December 1997

review by Kevin Courtney - 19 December 1997


And then there were three...

Hothouse Flowers have been away for quite a while and in that time they've been dreaming it all up again. Now pared down to a trio, the Flowers have reflected, reassessed and been rejuvenated into a rockier unit with a wider emotional scope. Last night, the Olympia Theatre was packed with friends, well-wishers and longtime followers, all eager to relive the glory days when the band were young, hairy, and completely trad for it.

Onstage, Liam Ó Maonlaí, Fiachna Ó Braonáin and Peter O'Toole look older, leaner, but still wide-eyed and guileless. They're taking their first, faltering steps after four years in the wilderness, and there's a steely look in their eyes, the stare of someone who's determined to prove they're no longer a rock 'n' roll savage.

The trad-rock threesome are augmented by Wayne Sheehy on drums and Robert Malone on bass; Peter and Fiachna trade metallic riffs on twin guitars while Liam boogies away on his electric piano, his bare feet pumping the foot-pedals for all they're worth.

There's precious little of the old Flowers' material in evidence, unless you count a nostalgic reading of Hallelujah Jordan and a raucous salsa version of Don't Go, the celebratory tempo completely over powering the exhortative lyrics. New material is unveiled with tentative modesty, the band picking their way carefully through the sometimes awkward chord changes and middle eights, but sometimes it feels as if Liam, Peter and Fiachna still haven't found the emotional range to make the songs really shake your soul.

During some of the songs' climactic moments, for instance, Liam's voice moves from a rich rumble to a shrill shout, and Peter and Fiachna seem scared to climb those frets and reach the sonic heights.

In the midst of unfamiliar new material, It'll Be Easier In The Morning gives the audience a solid reference point, and they sing the chorus with gusto, reassuring the astonished Flowers that they haven't been forgotten.

Emboldened by this show of support, the band bring out their trump card, a song called You Can Love Me Now, which they plan to release as a new single. The encore opens with The Lakes Of Ponchartrain, which tends to wallow a bit; the band finish with two hardriffing rock 'n' roll tunes which prove that the Flowers can still kick aspidistra.