The Academy @ APU, Cambridge 19/05/05

Fionn Regan is Ireland's latest prodigal poet son. Just a man, a guitar and some magical, beautiful and fascinating words forced the good people of Cambridge into an inherent state of utter awe. Painting a sublime musical picture of loss and hope, whilst taking pleasure in the bizarre and intriguing parts of life, what Mr Regan is is hopelessly human but not of this world. So make of that what you will. A rare talent.

And Hal are just as overwhelmingly lovely, from the moment they take to the stage instantly uniting young and old audience members in a big collective grin. No doubt, like me, they were thinking how much they would like to marry the cutesy bassist (the tall bald man who stood in front of me for practically the whole show will have to fight me for him). But seriously; whilst Hal's laidback and marvellously retro sound is by no means unique, they are the first band I have heard in a long while to wear their influences unashamedly on their sleeves and completely pull it off, which is what I think people love about them. Tracks like "Worry about the wind", "The Hits" and "Don't come running" have "I-swear-I've-heard-this-before" stamped all over it, warm and familiar but not in a rip-off way, and for someone like me, who wishes that they had been born in the sixties, this is truly fantastic. Because Hal bring the sixties bang up to date, claiming the decade as their own, yet respecting it and translating it in a way which just about anyone will be unable to resist a good bop to. Here to deliver harmonious summer-laden bliss to the masses, with a simple melodic gorgeousness that only someone that loves The Beatles as much as I do could have written, in short, I was mightily impressed by the Irish quartet's mature and highly accomplished musicianship. And that, combined with their obvious passion for what they do, not to mention singer Dave's note-perfect Beach Boys falsetto vocals, added to what I think was one of the most endearing live performances I have had the pleasure to see. Thank goodness for bands like this. If you haven't bought their debut album, I think now is as good a time as any, don't you?

Thanks to the folks at Green Mind for letting me through the door to write this review and to Nian for being generally kind and nice to us.

Anna C