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Mull Historical Society, Temple Bar Music Centre, Dublin, 8th April 2003

Temple Bar Music Centre strikes me as an odd spot for this gig. Perhaps this is because it feels like Mull Historical Society has been around for ages and is therefore not typical of the somewhat obscure acts that tend to appear on the Music Centre stage. Perhaps the big, rich sound created by Colin McIntyre on his debut, "Loss", sounds deserving of a bigger audience when unveiled live.

No matter. The young and somewhat cocky McIntyre seems to be the happiest Scot ever to grace an Irish stage. With a grin from ear to ear, he attempts to convey just how sweaty and smelly his t-shirt is ("I've been wearing this fuckin' thing for two weeks") all the time supping from a bottle of water. Mr MHS launched into 'Am I Wrong' from current album, "Us", a big swaying piano-led number that kicked off proceedings nicely.

His second album has been garnering many excited stirrings both here and in the UK, though some of us think it's not a patch on his 2001 debut. Either way, Colin McIntyre is exciting to watch. The cocky inhabitant of the island of Mull had a full band around him - like with Neil Hannon, it's slightly difficult to play 15 different instruments simultaneously - but the singer-songwriter very much takes centre stage. On his "opus for shopkeepers", he handed over his guitar and took position behind a keyboard. Hearing 'Barcode Bypass' live is quite moving: it starts with a gentle piano arpeggio and oddly stirring lyric 'and I want you to know/that my drugs are getting low', following into a more haunting, lonely sounding section and meandering back for a satisfying conclusion. It is his best song and nothing on "Us" comes close to topping it. In fact, if you found yourself dying to go to the loo, there were several opportunities during the airing of his latest, such as during the rather dull 'Oh Mother' or 'Asylum'. Or during his occasional key rambling, which sounded like a 10-year-old let loose on his granny's piano.

This gig was certainly not without other moments to savour, such as 'Supermarket strikes back', a return to his doomed shopkeeper; a bouncy popalicious 'Watching Xanadu', and a rocked up version of 'Mull Historical Society'. Overall though, this visit to Dublin was patchy; there is no doubt that McIntyre is talented (and he knows it) - gorgeous songs such 'Only I', with its accordion and brass section are no accident - but he is also capable of churning out fairly bland stuff. Perhaps he'll do an Ash job and blow us away with his third album…

Anne-Louise Foley.

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