Halves at The Model, Sligo (Friday November 5, 2010)

Halves are one of the emerging scene of outstanding Irish music acts. Alongside a host of other swirling-noisemakers, Halves stand out from the crowd with their infectious melodies and brooding compositions.

After travelling to Montreal to record their first full release a full two years after the band first broke onto the Irish music scene, Halves departed on a brief tour of Ireland. Known to the country’s music aficionados but still something of a mystery to those outside of it, they have grown in reputation thanks to a host of laudable live performances and gained notice at festival dates in recent years.

The Model, Sligo can be a difficult venue. There is a high seating capacity in the Black Box performance room, but Sligo is a relatively small town with a modest audience for up-and-coming music. The ceiling in the room is high, and the stage is wide. This often leaves artists daunted by the vast emptiness of the room when they perform at the foot of the cascading seats.

Halves faced this challenge head-on. They were greeted by a sparse but dedicated crowd, with scattered music-lovers dotted either side of the diagonal aisle that cuts the venue’s seating in half, looking down in anticipation of a high profile gig.

They did not disappoint. With an ensemble of instruments that included drums, guitar, bass, keyboard, sampler, bells, trombone, synthesizer, laptop, and (bizarrely wonderful) a baby grand piano, Halves took to the stage and generated the atmosphere for the night. The five band-members looked almost smothered by their broad array of equipment, but they moved around it freely with the delicacy and awareness of their common stage arrangement. Listeners were enveloped, immediately haunted by the combination of visuals that the band had compiled and overpowering music.

The visuals were essential to the overall atmosphere of the gig. Most of what appeared on the large backdrop that dominated the rear of the stage was brooding, near-monochromatic animated artwork; a different video piece for each song. The music was blissfully unassuming. It was technically proficient and ultimately brilliant, but their equanimity both during and between songs was outstanding.

The power in the music and the overall embrace of the dark melodies and moody compositions thrust forward into the crowd and allowed little room for waning attention or distraction of any sort. The stage show combined with the impeccable visuals trapped the eye. The band swapped instruments freely between and during songs demonstrating a well-rehearsed and clinical efficiency that matches the striking professionalism of their recorded music. And all the time the five-piece remained nonchalant and respectful to the audience, with great composure and modest banter between tracks. The entire experience was quite ethereal, and the reaction was electric. The crowd were silent during performances but they exploded with delight and admiration at the end of each piece.

Everything just fit into place nicely on the night. It was a fine example of how well a show can go when organised and executed by a unique crew of musicians. The sound, stage and atmosphere on the night were a credit to the venue and those involved.

Image courtesy of Halves’ website, click for link

My personal reaction to this gig was to be completely filled with admiration for the musical intuitiveness and visual inventiveness of Halves. The gig did not escape me as one of the more moving musical nights that I have experienced. The overwhelming circumscription of sound and visual elements were chilling and exciting and, more powerful than anything else, inspiring. I was eager to write, record, play, animate, educate and create on leaving the gig, and the feeling that emerged that night has not left me yet.

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