Is Marketa Irglova really talking to us about cartoons? The Czech songstress, best known for bagging herself an Oscar with everyone's favourite ginger troubadour from Ballymun, is partial to a bit of audience banter (hmm, we wonder where she got that from), but halfway through a lengthy anecdote about her love for the home-grown, online animal-cartoon series, Sminky Shorts, the mind does start to wander.
How did we get here? What's going on? Why is the sound so poor up here on the balcony? Now on her second solo album, Muna, Irglova (26) has come a long way since John Carney's Once, that low-budget, Academy Award-winning musical in which she co-starred and co-wrote many of the tunes alongside the inimitable Glen Hansard.
We all thought we'd get a third album out of the Swell Season (that was the name of the duo's band). Unfortunately, it wasn't to be, so we'll just have to make do with both of these performers ploughing ahead with solo careers, occasionally borrowing tunes from the collection that made them superstar indie favourites. Except, of course, when we're in Dublin. And Hansard happens to be in the vicinity.
But getting back to the star. Marketa's set - shared between five and, towards the end, seven players - features occasional flashes of brilliance. There are the ethereal (well, we are in a church) harmonies that float magnificently over a sumptuous combination of keys, guitar and bass.
The Swell Season numbers work well, too, and there's a lovely moment where a local fan of Marketa's gets to claim the spotlight for one song. Overall, however, it's a challenging, slightly smug performance, not nearly as clever or as magical as it thinks it is.
Currently based in Iceland, Marketa is certainly a gifted musician and vocalist, but her meandering, arty compositions rarely go anywhere, sacrificing the melodic wonder of her earlier output for scattered bursts of percussion (Aida Shahghasemi on the Daf drum), directionless riffs and peculiar, lyrical breakdowns ('Our Father' in Without a Map…ah, come on now, that's pushing it). Don't believe me? Then just listen to this gang (featuring Joe Doyle and Rob Bochnik from The Frames) perform the Swell Season's If You Want Me. Now there's a proper tune.
A sleepy performance, everyone plays it nice and mannerly, but the buzz and sparkle of the final act says this lot are capable of better. Indeed, Marketa catches the aforementioned Hansard at the back of the church and invites him to perform the excellent Falling Slowly. Seemingly unrehearsed, it's a genuinely marvellous moment, the pair slipping effortlessly back into each other's groove.
Afterwards, the gang indulge in a Sam Smith number (Stay With Me) and perform a gorgeous rendition of I Have Loved You Wrong. A strong end to a patchy gig. HHIII