There is a palpable air of excitement in the Sugar Club. The seats are filling up, the drinks are flowing, and fairylights are glimmering around a stage laden with the instruments of much-lauded Wicklow trio, Wyvern Lingo.
Opening with the charming support of Loah (one of our Plec Picks of 2015), it is hard not to be blown away by the incredibly talented, always-smiling singer. Loah has a powerfully lilting, versatile voice, which is particularly remarkable when she sings in Sierra Leonean language Sherbro for the gorgeous ‘Cortège’.
“I’m just trying to impress my dad,” she grins, pointing him out in the audience. These are sweetly intricate, rhythmic art soul songs. “Imagine having to follow that,” remarks someone sitting near us, and they have a point – playing after such a beautiful set certainly seems to be a daunting task.
As soon as Wyvern Lingo take to the stage, however, it is apparent that there is nothing to worry about. There is a seamless confidence in the way they burst into their first song of the night – the title track from their EP, The Widow Knows. It is immediately clear how much the group have progressed since the release of that EP last year. Everything is fuller and more polished somehow, and it’s a delight to hear.
We’re not the only ones who are enjoying it either – the band are visibly thrilled to be playing this final, sold-out show of their Letters Tour. This tangible enthusiasm makes the lush harmonies of ‘Fountains’ and ‘Subside’ particularly joyous, but it is at their slower, stripped-down moments that the trio truly shine. “We’re going to play two quiet songs now, so bear with us,” they joke, but it’s an unnecessary imploration. There is near silence from the audience as the Wyvern ladies delve through the folky ebb and flow of ‘Snow’, with its gentle melismas and those wonderful harmonies.
Indeed, the most striking thing about Wyvern Lingo is that shiver-inducingly cathartic use of harmony – in each song it hits you afresh how electrifying the human voice can be. Waves of keyboard act as an undercurrent to the swathes of hymnal vocals in stand-out new track ‘Etched in Concrete’. “We think this would work really well over the closing credits of a really dramatic episode of Game of Thrones”, jokes pianist and singer Karen Cowley, and it certainly is an arresting number.
This is not to detract from the enthralling sound of their poppier songs, with sugary guitar lines, weaving piano and propulsive rhythms on display in the likes of ‘Fairytale’ and ‘Fools’ – both of which, again, sound more polished than earlier versions. New track ‘Letter to Willow’ is an exciting indicator of what’s to come too, with its almost Motown feel.
They end on the hauntingly powerful a capella number ‘Used’ and – again – there is an impressive silence in the room. At 11 songs, it’s a short but sweet set that leaves the audience wanting more – but there is some solace in knowing that “more” from the Wicklow trio can’t be too far off.
Photo by Mark O’Connor.