Live Review: Gemma Dunleavy / Henry Earnest / Bricknasty- 3Olympia Theatre, Dublin 01.04.2022

Liam Murphy

On Friday, the 1st of April 2022, Dublin-native Gemma Dunleavy took to the 3Olympia Theatre stage for her biggest show to date. Despite the date famously being known as April Fool’s Day, this gig was no joke, with Dunleavy calling it the “dream of all dreams”. 

The night’s proceedings were kicked off in front of a black curtain by Dublin-based synth-pop producer Henry Earnest, 2 months after the release of his album Dream River, mixing all kinds of synths, bass, record scratching, and guitar, all while being accompanied by the beautiful vocals of Dreamcycles. The two, who recently debuted under their new musical project ‘Gush’, transitioned seamlessly throughout their set, moving back and forth from tranquillity into chaos, as they marched, danced, and allowed the crowd to ease themselves into the night. 

Dreamcycles herself acknowledging near the beginning “wow it’s early”, may have explained the early signs of stiffness of the crowd, seeing as they were only starting to come in, with doors only opening 30 minutes beforehand. But, as their set intensified, so did the crowd, as if Earnest had flicked a switch causing those in attendance to let go for a while, with an array of head bopping and swaying now coming from the floor. 

Henry Earnest himself only spoke periodically throughout the set, with the majority being “make some noise Dublin!”, then ended the 30-minute set, seemingly in roars, before taking a bow and leaving with a simple “thank you”, as he unplugged his decks and packed away his equipment, allowing for a short interval.

Following this short 15-or-so-minute interval, came the masked frontman of Bricknasty, along with the full band, of drummer Korey Thomas, bassist Dara Abdurahman, saxophonist Louis Younge, and keyboard player Tadhg Griffin, introduced by the frontman as “Sexy Tadhg”. The Ballymun-originated band ensured anyone who had been standing still before they came on stage was now well and truly moving, as their energetic set comprising of jazz, RnB, soul, and everything in between, blended together for the perfect opening. Their cover of Mario’s ‘Let Me Love You’ ended with a climax of a saxophone solo, causing the Dame Street music venue to explode in supportive cheers. 

Rapper KhakiKid then joined the five-member band onstage for a verse. Despite it being just a short verse, the Crumlin rapper still made time to jump off the stage and up to the barrier, resulting in fans pushing forward to join the beginnings of a mosh pit that had now been formed. 

The music played by the band could be felt, as they switched from fast upbeat choruses to slower dramatic verses, and then brought the mood right back up, repeating this cycle through their 35-minute set. The intensity of those bopping their heads was getting stronger, due to the drumming of Korey Thomas a drummer to watch in the current Irish scene, shaking the speakers at each drum hit, along with the rest of the band, in particular Younge’s saxophone and Griffin’s keys. 

After Bricknasty left the stage, excitement was at an all-time high, with the crowd dancing and singing along to the pre-show playlist, along with waving to those in the boxes, as the now nearly full Olympia awaited Gemma’s appearance.

Just after 9:15, the black curtain was lifted, now revealing a white curtain further down the stage, and in front of it, a clothesline of green and white Sherrif YC football jerseys. Then out came drummer Dylan Lynch, saxophonist and keyboardist Ryan Hargadon, vocalist, and Gemma’s cousin, Antoinette Dunleavy, and harpist Róisín Berkely, who then played some light-hearted reminiscent music while memories of the Sherrif Street flats, demolished in the late 90s, were projected onstage. 

By now, there was already a sense of pride and excitement in the room, as many of those who grew up in the Sherrif Street flats were seeing their homes projected onstage, before proud local Gemma Dunleavy walked onstage, with a smile beaming from ear to ear, dressed in a grey tracksuit. The room lit up and erupted into cheers.

Dunleavy herself performed two songs in this grey tracksuit hoodie, before revealing it to be velcro, ripping it open to reveal a white corset underneath, which she then carried on performing in. 

Throughout the whole set, Dunleavy expressed her gratitude, thanking her family, friends, and then the crowd for “creating the buzz”. She also sought justice for Terence Wheelock, a 20-year-old from the North Inner City, who died in 2005 while in Garda custody, as she read out a dedicated spoken word piece before striking phrases, facts, and questions were projected on the stage, such as “Why has no one been held accountable for Terence Wheelock’s Death?” and “Justice for Terence”, as she sang her 2020 song ‘Stop the Lights’. Her dedication resonated with the crowd, with cheers and support coming from the floor, and the higher up seated sections, including some of the Wheelock family, who had been in attendance. 

Dunleavy performed a mix of songs from her older catalogue, her 2020 UP THE FLATS EP, as well as some crowd-pleasers guaranteeing a night of dance, with one fan-favourite moment being her cover of Fragma’s ‘Toca’s Miracle’, causing all kinds of hand signals and dance moves to be thrown out. 

However, it was just before the last song when the excitement was at an all-time high, as Gemma left the stage, only to reappear in a green tracksuit to close the show with her hit song ‘Up De Flats’. Dunleavy proved her vocal ability once again, starting off slow and acapella before the beat kicked in causing the room to explode in cheers, pride, and chants. It seemed the whole of Sherrif Street was out in support as the crowd sang every word of this love letter to their childhood homes. 

Halfway through the song, some of Dunleavy’s friends and family joined her on stage, all dressed in green and white Sherrif YC football jerseys. They began chanting the song’s lyrics “Shouting up the flats from the rooftops” over and over until Gemma thanked the crowd and left the stage, while the chants continued all while people were leaving the venue.

This show was full of pride; Gemma’s pride in her home in Sherrif Street, and Sherrif Street’s love and pride for Gemma. Rarely has a show seen such a sense of community, both onstage and in the venue. It was a perfect ending, to an already amazing set. Dunleavy showed off her vocal talents, songwriting talents, poetry talents, dance talents, and her outspokenness, standing up for justice and what she believes in, all while joined by a brilliant band and stage production, what Dunleavy described as “trying to create the flats environment onstage”. 

Judging by the reception and magic of April 1st’s concert, I’ve no doubt that Gemma Dunleavy’s career is still only in the early stages, the only way from here is up. 

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