Those Belgians eh? First the quality beers, then the chocolate and now the slightly incongruously named band, Balthazar. The quintet played once before in Dublin supporting Local Natives in Whelans in 2013. That night the band raced through six songs before offering the stage to the Play It Again Sam label mates. The set was short but impressive, very impressive. At the time Balthazar had two albums under it's belt. In the intervening two and a half years the band has toured big venues in Europe and released a third album, Thin Walls on Play It Again Sam. A single from the album, Bunker, has received plenty of airplay on Irish radio. Not surprising since it is one of the great indie pop singles this year.
Saturday's Academy Green Room show included eight tracks from this year's Thin Walls, three from both 2012's Rats and the 2010 debut Applause album. As a live entity the band are as tight as any I've seen. The core of the group has been playing together for about ten years. Maarten Devoldere and Jinte Deprez share lead vocals. Devoldere has that Matt Berninger stage presence. He's got that look, you know the one. A look that says anything might happen, a stare and sudden movements that hint at a volatility. Deprez plays it safer, putting in the big shifts on guitar with some gorgeous melodic riffs and chords. Simon Casier plays the smallest bass guitar I've ever seen but it's not the size of the guitar that counts. Check out the bass progressions on Bunker or Blood Like Wine. Pure free bass honey. Patricia Vanneste is the keyboard/violin player and adds beautiful backing vocals. In fact the whole band can carry a tune, no better evidence than the acapella ending to Blood Like Wine. A highlight from the show was Vanneste's violin plucking, centre stage, during the bridge in Blood Like Wine. Approximately 300 people attended The Academy for this recent show. I don't expect the venue to be large enough for the crowd when the band next visit.