Aubrey Sellers and Dylan LeBlanc @ Whelans, Dublin - 14th Sept 2017


Expectations, especially when it comes to live gigs are, well, quite often confoundedly the reality of what actually takes place. Having listen to, and enjoyed, the most recent albums by both of the artists playing tonight there was a distinct difference between tonight live shows and those albums. 

First up Aubrey Sellers delivers a set of songs largely taken from her debut album New City Blues She is accompanied by her guitar player (from Nashville) and a  drummer, who she tells us she picked up in London and got him to play country music. Well, from where I was standing, you would be hard pressed to call the sound coming from the trio anything remotely “country.” Not that there was anything wrong with that. The album is an edgy and at times rocky confection with strong vocals and lyrics. Something that she has dubbed “garage country.”

In this context I found both the guitar and her vocals pretty much drowned out by the bombastic drum sound. Sellers is a good singer who can obviously straddle the divide between country and rock with ease. Her version of Gram Parsons’ Luxury Liner (a song that she told us pretty much was the story of her life) showed that her guitar player could embrace twang as well as garage treble. However both played second fiddle to the drumming. A pity overall as Sellers with an acoustic or with the addition of the electric guitar would have been a more effective introduction to her live show and such strong songs like Liar, Liar. Tonight the vocal, electric guitar and drum combination failed to connect.

Equally at odds with the bulk of his recorded work was the powerful set from Dylan LeBlanc who was playing with members of the band The Pollies and celloist Courtney Blackwell. She and guitarist Jay Burgess were fundamental to the sound which was completed by bass, drums and keyboards as well as some energised electric guitar playing from LeBlanc himself. His distinctive, high register soaring vocals were the centrepiece of the show. Even though it was difficult to hear the lyrical content, mainly due to the reverb on his microphone and the volume the band played at. Many of the songs were taken from LeBlanc’s three albums. The latest of those Cautionary Tales was released in 2015 so a new album is due and it is likely to be much more in keeping with the hard rock of tonight’s show.

Mid show there was an extended song that became a cathedral of sound the built to a peak of intensity, control and conscious melody. LeBlanc introduced one song as a new one before adding “ you probably don’t know the old stuff so it doesn’t really matter.” Between songs LeBlanc didn’t chat too much but said his previous visit to these shores had been to a festival in Belfast. This was his Dublin debut and despite the somewhat sparse crowd he gave a great performance that was animated and full of attitude a swell as powerful and compelling music.

He switched to his acoustic guitar for one song mid-set but otherwise he stuck to his black Gretsch and showed that he is as talented a guitar player as he is singer and songwriter. He closed the show after a final encore telling the captivated audience “It’s been great, It’s been Dublin, It’s been fun!” After the show a fellow audience member summed up the general feeling: which was that what she had just heard wasn’t at all she had thought it would be but that it was, in it’s own right. something mighty and memorable. This, then, was a cautionary tale of keeping an open mind and being rewarded (in LeBlanc’s case) by something pretty special.

Review by Stephen Rapid  Photography by Kaethe Burt O'Dea