As the first performer on, Julie Feeney set the initial tone and left me and a couple of my comrades somewhat dismayed, with her simplistic melodies and (in my perception) poor singing technique.
I'm sure many of those who appreciate her style (and she certainly got a lot of support - she didn't win her place as a nominee on Winning Streak) regard her vocal approach as "involved", "soulful" or "with character" and such, but it just sounded untrained, lacking in confidence (probably because of that) and weak.
Also, aside from the simplistic tone and style and basically unimpressive singing, she didn't seem to know how to bring her songs to a conclusion very well... she'd either just slow down a little and end on a brief pause, or just abruptly stop on a chord, or simply drop off.
Granted, she did seem a bit nervous, and when she spoke later she cemented this impression by trying to remember who to thank and forgetting and just generally looking bewildered (which is understandable given that she'd just won the event, to my extreme dissatisfaction), but in all instances (about 5 songs) I was disappointed with both her songs themselves and her performances of them.
Anyway, enough of that - there's no accounting for taste and what I like, someone else will hate and vice versa.
So, without further wafflisation, here's my list of bands in their order of play, my thoughts on those I can remember (it was yesterday, ok?) and my ranking of preference for each.
1st up: Julie Feeney (as previously badmouthed - 2nd least favourite)
2nd: Nick Kelly (joint 6th favourite)
Not the kind of music I like to listen to in general, so I was a little cynical before he even started. However, once he did start, I enjoyed what he produced and the enthusiasm he radiated in the two songs he played. Note: this guy looks a bit like Alec Baldwin.
3rd: Joe Chester (joint 6th favourite...)
Quite a good performer except that either he was using a shite mic or speaking into his collar - his voice sounded somewhat muffled. Good drums in his pieces, if I remember right. His bassist seemed like a man possessed and was very entertaining to watch (and listen to; he played some very nice stuff).
4th: Emmett Tinley (my joint favourite!)
I'd seen this guy on TV just a week or so before the gig, and was surprised when I saw him on the VT doing the intro spiel... since I had next to no prior knowledge of the lineup.
So I certainly wasn't surprised to hear an excellent and moving performance from him; this is where vocal technique (and a singer's surety in his own accuracy) makes all the difference for me... Tinley was better tuned than his own guitar, which he adjusted himself although it didn't sound well in tune for the second song, but close enough to be lifted by his hugely moving voice to be a great, great experience; his second song was like listening to a ghost (not the banshee kind).
5th: Duke Special (also joint favourite)
This man really was special; at first I was a bit skeptical and expected a show of gimmicry without soul, but behind the gimmicks was music with very interesting themes and textures.
So again, my initial cynicism was soon replaced with admiration and enjoyment, especially so in his second song which soon kicked in with a brilliant syncopated jazzy piano riff.
One of the high points of the evening, this was not just polish or substance, but an attractive mixture of both.
6th: Bell X1 (I think) (3rd favourite!)
Another brilliant and supremely polished band, these guys had the skill and confidence to pour enthusiasm and energy into their music without losing cohesion or going off the rails.
It was also great to watch the lead singer squirming around the stage!
7th: Hal (I think) (4th favourite)
These guys were also brilliant, although initially I didn't really like the lead singer's American singing-accent, I still really enjoyed their performance. They also had that superbly polished, multi-layered, super-smooth sonic texture, and the way they looked and played brought to mind 70's American bands like... well, America (Ventura Highway!) although more strikingly energetic.
Also a little reminiscent of some of Supergrass's stuff.
8th: Cane 141 (least favourite...)
I really didn't like this performance - it just seemed like lotsa pre-recorded sound mixed in with the girl doing some retro-60's-70's/early-90's-revival xylophone and accordion, while the guy did something on the keyboard and murmured constantly into the mic.
It sounded a bit like one of the lame radio stations in the first Grand Theft Auto game, with that "shootin' homies and bangin' up bitches muh muh yeah" imitation-gangsta-rap shit dribbling out of the car radio. No thanks...
9th: Turn (5th favourite)
Pretty good, if not as jarringly individual as some of the other acts.
Again, these guys seemed to have that slick and confident sound, and were able
to build up this powerful energy and send it into the crowd. At first, a few of
us were wondering about the guy with the squeaky voice, but he pulled off a good
So... all in all, some very, very good performances, but I was badly disappointed when those bitch-fighting radio presenters (especially the guy from 2fm, Cormac something. Jaysus, shut up, man!) announced Julie Feeney as the winner of the €10,000 cheque and €5,000 sponsorship deal with Today FM.
Having heard the various acts, I thought almost all of them were better performers playing better music, rather than someone who just found Mammy's keyboard and the ABC initial-to-grade-3 piano book and supplemented it with occasional singing in the bath for that extra honing of the skills.