Picture Book and Review: Bell X1 @ Smith’s Olde Bar – 10/6/2012

Photos and Review by Chandler Mays

Bell X1 is an alternative rock band out of Dublin, Ireland. Lyrically, they write songs that run the gambit from romantic to tragic, clever, and downright cheeky. Their accents add an Irish charm that you can’t ignore, especially when they say ‘arse’ instead of our more common alternative. Sonically, the band seems to have a case of multiple personality disorder. In the past twelve years, Bell X1 has written a catalogue of songs over the course of five studio albums that implement a variety of musical genres such as folk, anthem pop, soul, and electronic. Sometimes they sound like Keane or Coldplay while other times they can sound like Talking Heads. Their Smith’s Olde Bar show, however, was a special acoustic set filled with stripped down, intimate versions of their otherwise upbeat rock tunes.

The crowd at Smith’s was filled with ardent Bell X1 fans, yet everyone remained quiet and respectful during the performance, saving the whooping and chattering for the brief moments in between songs. There were small cloth covered tables with candles scattered throughout the middle of the room, and for the most part, the fans enjoyed the set while sitting down, sipping on beer and wine while being serenaded by three fine young Irish gentlemen. The acoustic renditions of their catalogue created a completely new dimension to their lively catalogue. What once had a full band sound, the tunes were transformed into gorgeous acoustic arrangements that played out more like Damian Rice songs. My favorite stripped down interpretation they performed was “The Great Defector“. The drums and new wave synth-sounds were absent from this arrangement, leaving only guitar strums and piano chords to accompany frontman Paul Noonan’s charming vocals. The band closed out their set with a beautiful cover of Roy Orbison’s “She’s a Mystery to Me“, which is actually a fitting shout-out to Bell X1’s homeland, because the song was written by Bono and The Edge of U2, Ireland’s most popular musical export. For the most part, America has always appreciated Ireland’s charms, and Bell X1 is no exception to this rule. They sound wonderful as an acoustic act, and should definitely consider writing more songs that follow a folkier path.


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