Padraig Whelan: Never Be So Wicked, No More as You Once Were EP release at Rough Trade West
The Rough Trade West Shop, situated on Talbot Road in the sunny, bustling borough of Kensington & Chelsea, is an odd setting: this particularly affluent part of London is more famous for its horrible televised denizens than as a centre for aspiring musicians, and the little shop in which we will be watching Padraig Whelan perform the four songs from his new EP – under the grammatically questionable name Never Be So Wicked, No More As You Once Were – is precisely that: a shop. No stage, no open space to speak of at all, save for the sidewalk outside. And for a while it looks as if he might actually simply play his set on the sunny pavement, but it is not to be. At 5.30pm, Whelan and his four-strong entourage move inside and he begins to play, squashed into a corner and surrounded by his team… and me. No one else turned up to watch poor Padraig play, apart from a couple of shoppers who, although enjoying his set, appear to be slightly taken aback at this rather impromptu performance.
The new EP was one of the last things ever recorded at the Olympic Studios – the famed musical home of the Rolling Stones when the Beatles took over Abbey Road in the 60s – and only 200 copies of the four-song album will be released, each with a Padraig Whelan hand-made Chinese lantern. The idea is that you can watch your lantern float off into the distance as you listen to the music, a nice concept as Whelan’s sound lends itself perfectly to a relaxing, quiet moment of self-reflection. His slightly effeminate, but still occasionally surprisingly strong voice is well backed-up by quiet guitar, and the songs are well-structured and sung with a particular sort of vulnerability, as if he’s crying while he sings. He’s not, of course, and he presents a rather cheerful appearance, joking with his mates between the songs and acting for the camera trained on him by one of the team.
In the end, Whelan only performed two songs out of the original four, because it’s quite nice outside and he doesn’t really have an audience, but they were songs that would be well-used as lullabies or soothing background music. To be honest, this “up-and-comer” (as he is described by the Truck Music Store) didn’t seem to be taking the whole thing too seriously. He has a few more concerts coming up, along with an appearance in Colourfest 2012 where you might catch him at his most theatrical, but until then, you can check out his songs on his website and chill out with a glass of wine to his smooth, dulcet tones. Enjoy!
Orestes Daniel Kouzof