With Kodaline, the knee-jerk but flattering comparisons abound. The multitalented quartet can alternate from foot-stomping, hand-clapping down-home folk to the new age-ism ticks of rock bands like Muse and Coldplay, with hardly a twitch of malaise. The Irish-bred musicians malingered around briefly before getting their act together and finally infiltrating the zeitgeist last year - via Grey’s Anatomy and a Google commercial. As evidenced by their recent sell-out shows and the live fan choir singing behind me at Hollywood’s Masonic Lodge Friday evening, it seems the buzz has crossed the pond for good.
Like a very graceful person living with attention deficit disorder, Kodaline is composed of flawless transitions and irresistible in-person charm. As soon as they've eased themselves into a song, they immediately graft onto another mutation of rock. Over "Lose Your Mind," they hum with stadium rock gravitas, U2 influences, and sample a Chinese operator all at once. In "Love Like This," they stretch out their hands for the kind of sunny, upbeat folk they are frequently associated with. They get semi-lost when jamming out frequently. They broadcast clear and aching when band members stand aside for Garrigan to ballad solo from the piano, before joining back in. This is no rehearsed setlist, version three. This is an organic, new thing.
These are intent, talented musicians, descended from the same land that delivered us U2, Van Morrisson, and My Bloody Valentine. It's a tough bill and a wall of cliches to follow, but Kodaline manage with ease, skill, and evidence of that ineffable identity each band wishes to brand itself with. Singer and guitarist Steve Garrigan brandishes mandolin, piano, guitar, harmonic, and tambourine; his voice cracks in many right and wonderful places. Drummer Vinny May is a fixed study in controlled chaos - his method can only be described as highly intended and smartly executed. As opposed to gelling together into the neutralized melting pot of indie rock, in action, this stitches itself into one of the more dynamic rock shows I've seen in a while.
It would be a cliche to say the heaven's parted and the rain let up when Kodaline took the stage but that's literally what happened. To make a creepy situation even creepier, the lingering moisture from the rare L.A. rains made the moon look downright sinister shining over tombstones at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, which fans had to walk through to reach the show.
"We've never played a graveyard before," noted Garrigan. But they took full advantage of the amenities offered by this one, heading up to the choir balcony to deliver a spot-on rich harmony of Sam Cooke's "Bring It On Home To Me" before heading back down for their thunderous, exhilarating coda featuring a live violinist and their opener, LP. For any skeptics, seeing the entire band hold down a beat and harmonize just as well as Boyz II Men hundreds of feet away from their instruments was the ultimate win-over factor.
The Irish-bred musicians carved a name for themselves in the UK last year playing a hybrid of folk and stadium rock, best compared to what bands like Mumford and Sons put a patent on - and what bands like the Local Natives and The Lumineers were forced into recreating post commercial success. It take a lot for a small-bill band to fill a stadium-sized marquee, as is the natural transition for successful bands today, but if the sound is right, it can be done, and Kodaline are well on their way to doing so.