National treasures: The Gloaming set for five nights at NCH

It seems daft that this time last year the Gloaming were outsiders to win the Choice Music Prize — up against all the hype and bluster over Mr Hozier.

Some 12 months later, they’ve sold out five dates in the National Concert Hall and could’ve gone over the week, as the concerts sold out quicker than most PR machine blockbuster gigs.

The five-piece’s debut album somehow re-ignited trad music out of our hazy, intuitive collective memory into a shape-shifting form — another distinct step in trad after hundreds of years of evolution.

With trad entangled in so much of our, well, tradition, many called it ‘alt-trad’ — in the same way ‘alt-country’ stripped the baggage away and cleared the decks for unprejudiced listening.

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The Gloaming have also been called a ‘supergroup’ — which automatically evokes images of ageing rockers teaming up, mismatched pop stars or Dave Grohl with anyone else who’ll have him. But none of five members’ past lives overshadow the group, creating an alchemy that evolves further on stage.

Fiddle player Martin Hayes has talked before about unshackling himself from convention; singer Iarla O Lionaird comes from an eminent sean-nos lineage; Caoimhin O Raghallaigh’s drone fiddle adds an avant-garde ambient element; American Dennis Cahill has been playing stripped back jigs and reels for decades, and New York pianist Thomas Bartlett aka Doveman brings an influence from his work with The National, Sufjan Stevens, Sam Amidon and Nico Muhly.

As with their debut, the band’s new album The Gloaming 2 was recorded live, once again over five days. They share an unlikely method with noise-rock titans Swans in that their albums are studio snapshots that unwind and evolve on the road, gaining more power and traction with every iteration and improvisation on stage.

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Their live shows at the NCH last year featured versions of songs from the album and works in progress that have finally made it to album two.

Speaking to The Star last year ahead of a WB Yeats tribute at the National Concert Hall last year, Bartlett admitted he was surprised by the success of the first record — and felt a bit of pressure heading to its follow-up.

He half-jokingly said: “We made that record quite quickly without really that much of a sense of what we were doing. And now it can’t be repeated… that’s where we’re f***ed!”

But The Gloaming 2 — available as a pre-release stream this week — swipes away the cliched difficult second album, with a perfect follow-up. Veering between solemn laments and passages that stir your latent trad gene, we can almost hear the creaking and stomping of the NCH stage already.

  • The Gloaming 2 is out today