Shawn Smith's got his robot-walk on. Decked out like the best dressed man at a Roy Wood convention, Smith is on his own tonight. It's his Dublin debut, would you believe.
"My first time in your fair city," he declares. Now, this would be the perfect time to explain who exactly Shawn Smith is. According to Greg Dulli of the Afghan Whigs, Smith is "Seattle's best kept secret".
Yep, the Washington music-maker is a big deal back home. A prolific band leader (Pigeonhed, Brad and Satchel) and solo artist, Smith (49) has worked with and, indeed, impressed some of the greatest, but he'd be doing well to get arrested on this side of the world. Hence, the low turnout. No mind.
Aside from the comical entrance, Smith keeps things low-key. It's just a man and his keyboard / guitar, playing a dozen songs about death (his words, not ours) for an hour. You could do worse than get on side with Smith's surprisingly soulful cry.
You don't expect the bearded wizard to make such a rich and funky sound with his voice. This being something of a late first date with Irish audiences, it'd be nice if he injected a touch more personality and fun into proceedings.
Instead, a downbeat Smith paces himself, breezing through a patchy yet genial set, occasionally striking gold (the bewitching Buttercup).
The best tunes are covers. Mother Love Bone's Crown of Thorns sees Smith get his raucous, acoustic blues man shtick on.
Mojo magazine once hailed this guy as one of the greatest rock vocalists of all time. A wild exaggeration, for sure, but when he's fully switched on - head swirling, foot stomping - the results are extraordinary.
An exquisite take on Purple Rain tells us everything we need to know about this chap's biggest influence in the vocal department. Next time, bring the band. Well, one of them, at least.