7th February at Club Academy
Irish singer and songwriter Brian O’Reilly, or Bry, like many others before him, forged his own way onto the music scene through YouTube. His online presence gained rapidly, securing him a worldwide fanbase. It was with the release of his latest album Bry, produced by Greg Wells, that his name really started pricking the ears of those of us outside that fanbase.
While Bry, rather self-consciously, has described his sound as “sad indie music”, there is definitely far more of merit to it than that. It was this self-consciousness, however, that seemed to dominate his performance at Manchester’s Club Academy on Tuesday.
One of the reasons Bry so abruptly seems to have burst under the covers of popular music publications is the fact that a certain, rather popular band, took him on tour across Europe late last year. Unfortunately, this resided over the entirety of Bry’s set like a dark and pervasive cloud; he entered the stage to a slightly altered version of Twenty One Pilots’ ‘Ride’ and unfortunately the ride was almost a consistent downwards slope from then on.
He proceeded to make six more references to the fact that he’d supported Twenty One Pilots on tour and the result was a performance that, completely unnecessarily, rode on this fact. His endless references to them by no means enhanced his performance, but rather dampened it with an imposing feeling of insecurity about his own music and place on the stage.
Bry is a funny guy, and there were moments throughout the set where I genuinely laughed out loud, but self-deprecating humour can only have so much of a place in live music. Similarly, lack of confidence can be endearing, but it needs to be set off by the right amount of certainty in what it is you are delivering in order to truly work out.
What was most frustrating about all of this, was the fact that behind this shadow Bry seemed to hide behind, his music was really very good. Guitar-based and simple, the show carried an air of a genre that is both classic and forgotten, yet new and effortlessly cool. Songs such as ‘Adventure Time’ and ‘You’re Alright’ captured a subtle feeling of nostalgia in bursts of brilliant indie pop. Whilst the song he closed his set with, and his most recent single, ‘Disarm’ is a track that threads the nostalgia Bry has expertly integrated into his music, with a beat that even the parents lingering at the back of the room could not resist bobbing up and down to.
Bry is a truly great songwriter, and with that he carries the essence of a great performer, but he needs to realise and convince the rest of us – and perhaps himself – of what it is he can do. And ultimately, show what he does is good enough to stand alone, not hover behind another band’s success, because in my opinion, it is.