Dublin Olympia (19/6/99)

Perhaps unsurprisingly for a band who resemble the post-boozer queue in a kebab shop, all has not worked out quite as it should for Witness. With their debut album pending, the most heavily-tipped band of the year after Gay Dad hardly find themselves as the central attraction of a Saturday night out in Dublin. Outside, it's knees-up time in Celtic Disneyland. Inside, it certainly isn't.

Despite sharing their hometown with The Verve, Witness have never looked like reaching the heights of their contemporaries. Ten years of listless drifting has taken its toll on both their sound and demeanour. Evoking the broken paving stones and empty takeaway cartons that litter a landscape of broken dreams, they're a resolutely sombre affair.

Yet they still hypnotise with their sparse yearnings. The hollow and tinny sound which blighted previous gigs is banished with the addition of Julian Pransky-Poole (ex-Strangelove) on second guitar, keyboards and xylophone, frequently juggling all at the same time. Songs like 'Heirloom' and 'My Friend Will See Me Through' are submerged urban hymns played through a mistuned radio.

And it's the sound, rather than the performance, that's the point with Witness. Perhaps if they smoked a bit less dope, they'd be a bit livelier. As it is, they're like watching moss growing on a tombstone: it's not exactly riveting to look at, but still a quantifiably religious experience.

Gerard Starkie's massive blue eyes and injured bird vocals are the perfect medium for Witness' soul diving and ripped-aorta pleadings. They'll always be too literal and innocent for the hip cognoscenti, but the thousand impending hangovers gathering outside might welcome their oddly sweet grace come the morning.

Neil Thompson (NME)

Back to Gig Reviews                    Back to Gigography