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Little Palace, Whelans, Dublin, 23rd May 2000

Clichéd as it sounds, you could almost feel the anticipation in the audience at Whelans on the night of Little Palace's relaunch. The release of their first LP "Whole" and the first gig with the new line-up, not to mention the airing of some new material much awaited by fans who have worn ridges in the band's EP "Beekeeper" and their last outing, the 1998 single, 'Car'. I last saw Little Palace in Whelans that year. It was one of those electrifying little gigs, the kind that buzz around your head for days afterwards and that only a few dozen fortunate people ever witness. They hadn't much material back then, but they played the seven songs we knew and adored and padded it out with covers.

Two things about the band really stood out - the talent of its young members, especially the vocal abilities of Ann Louise Mulvany - a voice that surely must have lifted the roof off their local pubs in Kells in their earlier days, and the energy in Martin Quinn's guitar playing. What was most disappointing about the launch of "Whole" was the absence of these two factors. Martin Quinn is gone, while Mulvany, looking as stunning as ever, has dissolved into the background, acting as little more than a backing singer. This seems a terrible waste, as those who have heard a song like 'Gift' will verify. Their set included only two of their older (and I hate to say better) material and the tender love song 'Secret', which they use as their only encore, is slowed down so much it might as well be a different song.

The songs from "Whole" are undoubtedly lower key than what we've heard before and some of them, such as the title track, succeed in holding your attention. The album's strongest moment is the first single, 'Tourniquet', and played live it radiates energy within the band, reminding you of why you fell in love with Little Palace in the first place. Also likeable was a Peter Gabriel cover showing that the band are about more than just slow love ballads. I can't help but compare them to The Plague Monkeys, both bands boasting enormous vocal talent, engaging lyrics, quiet focused performances and both with huge potential for brilliance. Little Palace only played for about an hour though this wasn't their fault (the indie Friday nightclub starts at 11) and left the devoted fans feeling a little disappointed.

Anne-Louise Foley

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