Quality Trumps Quantity

June 7th, 2011

Bell X1 – The Bowery Ballroom – June 6, 2011

(Photo: Courtesty of Bell X1)

They often say it’s not about the quantity, but the quality. Now that’s not always true (give me a million crumpled up dollar bills over five crisp ones), but Ireland’s Bell X1 and the crowd that came to see them at The Bowery Ballroom on Monday night did their best to prove the maxim. Opening with “Hey Anna Lena”—as their new album, Bloodless Coup, does—the sound was sparse, with Paul Noonan’s sweet voice accompanied by a slow-moving bass riff and Radiohead-like digital pops. There was a silence among the instruments that brought stark contrast between each sound: primary colors on a truly white canvas. It wasn’t a million noises spread out over the spectrum, but a small number of crisp, distinct ones that allowed the audience to hear everything—every nuance, every lyric, every note.

From there, the energy built. On “Bad Skin Day,” Noonan took up the electric guitar as band everyman David Geraghty took an E-Bow to his electric guitar for a deliberate, delicate feel. The sound in the room was so clean, there was no room for fudging. “Velcro” had the feel of good jazz with melodies interlocking with zipper-like precision. The set continued to build and draw the crowd in as the band worked through their new album as well as older numbers. “Take Me to Your Cave” tacked a nice little instrumental coda onto the end of the typical Irish-pop sweetness, with Noonan hitting away at a small drum kit at the front of the stage.

The room was not full, but the crowd was ample and again, quality trumped quantity, as they joined in with sing-along vocals for “Rocky Took a Lover,” the audience fit in as perfectly as the individual instruments onstage. The highlight of the night was “4 Minute Mile,” which Noonan introduced with an anecdote about a bullfighter who ran away during his first fight, and that was OK. Featuring great lyrics like “I’ll never at a salad at McDonald’s” and a turn on the funked-up bass by Geraghty, Bell X1 proved they could also bring the quantity as well. —A. Stein

(Bell X1 also plays The Bowery Ballroom tonight.)