Pure pleasure you can't measureI'm from Barcelona, Whelan's, Dublin, Sunday 12 November
Take one down-on-her-luck ex-musician with cynical eye, add a splattering of jaded-musician husband and simmer. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to find the magic ingredient that will cheer them up.
Opening act, Ham Sandwich, or "I'm from Bord na Mona" as one band member suggested, didn't quite provide the necessary cheer, although they certainly made me take my coat off. Their tight, stomping rhythm section, distorted guitars and soaring male/female vocal harmonies rose above the madding crowd and almost made me smile. Close, but no cigar.
So can I'm from Barcelona pull it off in little more than an hour? Freddie Mercury's "Barcelona" announces the arrival of the band, as they prepare to take on the challenge.
One line into the opening song and I turned around to see jaded-musician husband grinning from ear to ear. He hugged me and gave me a kiss; we jumped up and down, we sang along to Treehouse, a song we'd never heard before. Ticker tape and beach ball balloons fell from the ceiling; the 16-strong band, barely fitting on Whelan's stage, ventured into the audience to join the festive cheer.
I'm from Barcelona is (at full-strength) a 29-piece band from Jönköping, Sweden, formed and directed by singer-songwriter-guitarist, Emanuel Lundgren. The remaining 28 sing backing, play an interesting variety of instruments including clarinet, sax, flute, trumpet, banjo, accordion, kazoo, guitar, drums, keyboard, and dance like nobody's watching. The result is indie-pop from the heart, music that simply makes you feel better.
Instead of introducing the band, Emanuel Lundgren decides to introduce the audience. He then invites one up for birthday congratulations, another to sing along and yet another up to play the kazoo - even the barman is on the stage by the end of the night. All are efforts to extend the party atmosphere, although there is really no need, everyone is joining in already. "Don't give up on your dreams, buddy", "Chicken Pox" (the chorus made me laugh out loud - "once you've had it, you can't get it"), "Rec and Play" are all uplifting, catchy, sing-along pop songs, delivered with warmth and enthusiasm.
The climax of the show is, of course, the band's theme tune, "We're from Barcelona":
"We'll aim for the stars / We'll aim for your heart / We'll bring you love / You'll be one of us".
Pure pop, pure pleasure. But don't take my word for it, decide for yourself:
I always wondered where old people would go, once they'd finished their raving days. We're here, punching the air, smiling at complete strangers at 10pm on a Sunday night in Whelans.