On Wednesday night, a hundred souls packed into the cosy, compact basement of the Sebright Arms, set in an anonymous East London back street to catch current buzz band, Kodaline. The night before the Dublin act had filled the nearby, more spacious Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen. So, one sensed some of the audience had turned up for a second helping.

The four-piece is hardly showy; in fact, it took four songs before lead vocalist Stephen Garrigan broke the silence, stating, “We’re Kodaline from Dublin.” Any ice melted though and the band was soon relaxed enough to introduce a little banter into the proceedings. The sound was especially fulsome early on when the outfit launched into the psychedelic workout of “Lose Your Mind” as its opener. A fully miked drum kit, ringing guitars, and resonant bass filled the room, yet Stephen Garrigan’s soaring, fluttering vocal could still be heard, aided by close harmonies from all three band mates.

Continuing with two other cuts from its debut EP, Kodaline impressed with the ability to reproduce its recorded sound live and the earnest passion wrapped around its presentation. Masked by indie touches like woolly hats and workmanlike clothing, there is something of a (dare I say it) boy band appeal about Kodaline, from frontman Garrigan’s pop star looks to the rich vocal harmonies of all. There is also a well-defined Irish sensibility about the repertoire; a penchant for bold balladry and the exemplary drumming of Vinnie May, who seemed to grow a third hand to lay down a bodhran beat amidst his admirable kit work. Rich bass from Jason Boland and meaty guitar from Mark Prendergast completed a strong tight ensemble sound.


As the set progressed it became clear that Kodaline already has an impressive, if short, selection of songs under their belts. The passion comes across in big production songs like “High Hopes” and “One Day”, both with hooks that linger even on first listen. “All Comes Down To You” is a particular standout and with the sound quality now peaking, went down fine with the crowd. That said, once Kodaline launched its flagship tune, “All I Want”, there was no holding back from the fans. The YouTube-savvy crowd knew the words front to back and returned the chorus with real love. An encore featuring another anthem, “The Answer”, which built to an intensely rhythmic crescendo, signalled the end of a nine-song set that reeked of quality.

While the craft is honed in a small venue, you sense that this is a band that will be on a far bigger stage fairly soon. The only qualification is that obvious comparisons can be drawn with stadium fillers such as Coldplay, Elbow, U2, or even (early) Radiohead. It’s both flattering and a warning that Kodaline need to work on more individuality to cut out their own niche. With songs of this quality and genuine mainstream appeal, though, that shouldn’t be quite as daunting a prospect than you might think.

Photography by Paul Woods.

Set List:
Lose Your Mind
Perfect World
High Hopes
One Day
Love Like This
All Comes Down To You
All I Want
The Answer