Following two hotly contested semi-finals, and a night of incredible music, it was Indie singer-songwriter Rónán Connolly who emerged victorious at this year’s Battle of the Bands. For his efforts, Connolly won a performance slot at Trinity Ball.
The depth of talent on show in this year’s competition was breathtaking. Étáin had the unenviable task of performing first, and as a consequence, to a half-empty venue. Ultimately, this did not faze her. Her unique voice along with her upbeat yet laid back performance style immediately captivated all who had the pleasure of listening. The guitar strumming and connection with the audience seemed apparently effortless, and despite the fact that she was performing almost exclusively original material, by the end, all those present were gleefully singing along. It was clear throughout her set that Étáin knew how to interact with her crowd, humorously referring to her flawless contemporary take on the Beatles’ classic Come Together as a song by a “lesser known band from Liverpool.” The fact that her original song, Tonne of Bricks, warranted a more enthusiastic reaction from those present speaks volumes about the quality of the artist. Her final song, It’s the Grá, another original with an Irish language twist, was of similar quality, catalysing a very successful call and repeat sequence. She was in many ways similar to artists such as Birdy, but with a distinctly Gaelic undertone, along with a distinct mix of originality and poetic lyricism.
Next up was heavy metal band Atticus, who due to their chosen genre, were always going to be outliers in this competition. They were as clear a diversion from Étáin’s gentle melodic sound as you can get, but for some reason, it really worked. Their opening song was intense, bringing all present to their feet. The energy of the frontman was infectious, ensuring that even those who knew little about metal were enjoying what was on offer. There was evident chemistry among all of the band members, and what was perhaps most refreshing about this group was that they were clearly enjoying themselves. Their high tempo was disrupted somewhat by a reimagination of Ed Sheeran’s Don’t. Although this may have been an understandable attempt to engage a more popular genre, the group’s original material was of a far higher quality. That said, the Ed Sheeran experiment worked, due to its universally known lyrics and the energy of Atticus themselves. The groups’ own song, Shapeshifter, was undoubtedly the highlight of their set, and they are sure to have seen a spike in Spotify listeners at least after last night’s exploits, due to the high standard of their overall performance.
Anybody attempting to follow the energy of Atticus would have to be something special. Rónán Connolly was all that and more. Connolly and his band stole the show with relative ease. Connolly’s voice was an eclectic mix of Tom Walker and Maverick Sabre, but a little less generic pop, and a little more refreshing ingenuity. It was clear from the lift of energy in the room that Connolly had brought a big crowd, with each of his lazily brilliant guitar strums met with rapturous cheers and gleeful sways from the audience. His showmanship was effortless, with the odd reference to bandmate Dougie “taking the bass for a walk” proving to be just enough to engage the crowd. His original material was simply incredible for such a young artist, in particular Between the Tress, and the more upbeat Paint on Cars. Not a lot can be said for his cover of Sam Sparro’s Black and Gold, other than that it was arguably better than the original. Following desperate cries for “one more tune,” Connolly concluded with one of his own songs, Tattoos, which was of an equal class to all which had gone before it. The fact that this was only the second time this band had performed together live is impressive and anybody lucky enough to have a Trinity Ball ticket can be assured that the lineup was dramatically improved following Connolly’s victory.
Next up was TV People, a four-piece Indie band with a jazzy edge. The group were professionally styled and were one of the most memorable acts on the night. From bass maestros to people who had never seen a guitar in their life, the quality of musicianship of this group was abundantly clear. The group were clearly well-drilled, and the two lead vocalists are success stories waiting to happen, epitomised by their contrasting style and overwhelming stage control. Ents promised an “energetic show with a diverse style,” and these guys did not disappoint.
The final act of the night was Greg Tisdall. Tisdall’s performance was a fitting end to a great night of music. This pop artist is a natural performer, matching original material with a stage presence that was captivating. He began his show with two of his own songs, one of which, Changes, catalysed infectious audience participation and had all present not singing, but chanting along, despite the fact that it had only been performed a handful of times before. As with most of Tisdall’s music, this was probably due not only to its class but the relatability of his lyricism. Similarly, his song about summer friendships Haze, warranted unanimous approval. The undisputed highlight of his set was Teenagers. The support for Tisdall on the night was perhaps the largest for any act with exception of Connolly. There was significant chemistry between the memorable frontman and his band, and much like all of the finalists, this won’t be the last we hear from him.