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Irish pop-rock group Bell X1 were once referred to as “Irish rock’s most likeable band” by The Irish Times in 2009. Such a title sets high expectations, yet it was soon clear that the gentlemen from the Emerald Isle were very much deserving of the label when they stopped by the WERS studio last week to perform a set live on-air.
While the famously likable members of Bell X1 are no strangers to touring, their current tour finds them playing shows like never before. In support of their new live-acoustic album, Field Recordings, the guys have embarked on a tour consisting entirely of acoustic performances. With the fully acoustic tour, Bell X1 set out to find new, intimate energy in their catalog, and it was this energy that the group emulated in their WERS performance.
Equipped with his acoustic guitar, lead vocalist Paul Noonan was joined by pianist and back-up vocalist David Geraghty in the Tremont Street studio. Prior to going live, the two cracked jokes between themselves and inquired to the on-air host about the student-run workings of the radio station – all with an air of sincerity and genuine interest. Upon going on-air, this exact sincerity translated seamlessly from Noonan and Geraghty’s dialogue into Bell X1’s acoustic performances.
First up was a stripped-down rendition of the group’s 2011 single “Velcro.” The catchy tune, featuring Noonan’s observations on duality as well as several quirky analogies, seemed to find a new sense of fervor stripped away from its original electric guitar and synthesizer. With the earnestness with which Noonan delivered the lyrics, it was easy to imagine female listeners all over wishing they could be the complimentary patch to his handsome Velcro.
“Flame”, a track off of Bell X1’s 2006 album Flock, also benefited from the new acoustic approach. Noonan took a moment while Geragthy was transitioning from the piano to his own acoustic guitar to describe the original version of “Flame”, which he described as heavily influenced by disco sounds. One listen to the acoustic rendition of the song and it is hard to imagine it existing in any other form – especially a funkier, glitzier one. With the acoustic version, the sheer lust of “Flame” was taken off of the dance floor and brought back to the bedroom where it evoked an even deeper sense of emotional and physical passion.
Clearly, Bell X1’s acoustic performances have impacted the songs, but as Noonan commented during the live performance, the acoustic shows have altered their audiences as well. When asked about the audience’s response to the all-acoustic tour so far, Noonan noted the connection and energy from the crowds being distinctively different when playing acoustic songs in intimate music halls compared to when they kick out jams in traditional rock clubs. The slight smiles on both Noonan and Geraghty’s faces as Noonan answered the previous question suggest the shift to a softer, more intimate bond with their audiences is indeed a welcome one at this point.
Despite continuing comparisons to legendary acts such as Radiohead, Talking Heads, Coldplay, and another particular Irish rock group also named after an experimental WWII aircraft, the guys of Bell X1 have remained humble and relatable. Their dedication to providing quality music for their growing number of fans worldwide is encouraging, yet so is their sense of humility and sincerity. For if they continue on the track they are currently on, Bell X1 may go from only “Irish rock’s most likeable band” to “Pop-rock music in general’s most likeable band.”