"Cead mile failte!" Manu Chao's bass-playing hype man there, the inimitable Gambeat, getting things started at Kilmainham. We'll be hearing more from good-old Gambeat this evening. Much, much more, in fact. Jeez, by the time this gig is finished, we'd be doing well to never hear from Gambeat again.
The man born José- Manuel Thomas Arthur Chao is the star, of course. How is it that Chao (they call him 'Manu'), a multi-lingual, French-Spanish artist, armed with a smooth and eclectic, Worldbeat songbook, and a man who has rarely troubled mainstream charts on these shores, can draw more punters to Kilmainham than Beck, eh? Granted, his is a culturally diverse following, and it feels like every nationality in the city has turned up in Dublin 8 tonight. "Go crazy, Dublin!" demands the bloke in the yellow shirt and shorts. Oh, alright then.
This is Manu Chao's first Irish appearance in forever, and to be honest, we were hoping for an altogether more laidback and elusive affair; a few tasty, genre- hopping summer grooves in which the renowned political activist and songsmith gets his chill on.
True, there's enough hippy nonsense to last a lifetime (full marks to the girl who rushed the stage to dance with a bottle of water on her head), but was anyone else expecting a ska gig? Apparently, that's how Manu Chao rolls these days, (punk) rockin' out and getting down fast and heavy with the Radio Bemba Sound System.
We've got brass, guitar, bass and shouty refrains. We've got Manu pounding his microphone against his bare chest until it turns red. We've got a band that refuses to keep its feet on the ground. Crikey, we've got moshing and conga lines down the front. In a word? Mental. It's a riotous house party. Nobody seems to care that Chao and the boys keep repeating themselves (seriously, every song sounds the same).
Sure, there are only so many ways to turn with a reggae-fused, brass coated throwdown but Chao stretches himself beyond breaking point. Bongo Bong, King Kong Five, Politik Kills - they're very different tunes on record. Here, they are practically indistinguishable. And did we mention the fact that Manu Chao hasn't released a new album in eight years?
Time to get back to Gambeat. Jaysus, the man is like an embarrassing uncle at Christmas; a proper wreck-the-head who won't leave his sound-effect box (or the microphone) alone. Too much 'HEY!' Too much reverb. At least Manu is tolerable. The boys bounce - Kilmainham bounces back. They dance even when there is no music to dance to. We've attended worse parties. 3/5
> CHRIS WASSER