Walking on Cars at Shepherd’s Bush Empire
On a stage inundated with smoke, Walking on Cars emerge to a comfortably filled Shepherd’s Bush Empire. The crowd’s reception of the Irish four-piece – turned five for tonight’s show, having picked up an unnamed guitarist – is impassioned as the bass drum whumps.
The band opens with Monsters, from their new album Colours. Dingle native Patrick Sheehy’s gravelly voice croons under monster-green lights interspersed energetically with white. He rushes around the stage, mic in hand – “I see you running, I see you running scared”. This song is better suited to a live performance than an album setting. Here, the band’s undeniably tight musicianship shines through. Sonically cohesive, the ensemble’s approach to bombastic anthems is (from a purely musical, bar-level standpoint) refreshingly nuanced. Sorcha Durham’s backing vocals on One Last Dance delicately complement her wisping piano, while drummer Evan Hadnett’s satisfying snare wrapping offsets each track’s underlying, thunderous bass. Yet expand your view beyond the immediate moment, to the song structure and setlist, and problems emerge.
On the back wall, three varicoloured roses of increasing size form the show’s central imagery – artwork from the new album. These artificial flowers appear in lieu of a band name and form an appropriate metaphor for tonight’s performance: a rose (a tired image of love) brightly coloured (universal associations with positivity), expanding in size until it can’t be ignored. This visually represents the group’s songwriting approach. As the night wears on, it becomes clear that Walking on Cars’ composition style is now fully engrained. Song after song of the same empathically narrow, trope-saturated lyrics, followed inevitably by a drop circa the one-minute mark and a prompt upward turn via rapturous crescendo, only to be cut off suddenly for a lyrical solo… it’s a bit much. This formula wears and by tonight’s sixth number, Too Emotional – which Sheehy introduces as a wild new direction for the band only to sing the depressingly uninspired words, “All my friends say I’m too emotional, I can’t control myself when I’m around you” – it becomes hard to discern individual melodies. Tracks meld into one another and soon even the lights feel repetitious. Green again? Flashing white? Really?
Yet still the crowd cheers for an encore, Speeding Cars, proving Muriel Sparks’s words true: “For those who like that sort of thing, that is the sort of thing they like.”
Photos: Guifre de Peray
For further information and future events visit Walking on Cars’s website here.
Watch the video for Speeding Cars here: