CONCERTO FOR CONSTANTINE: A BRIEF HISTORY 2007 – 2008
Ireland has always had a reputation for great music. It’s been part of tradition and heritage for as long as any one can remember. However, another more recent element of this tradition is many of our acts getting lost in time and passed over for the sake of another group. Off course this is a common occurrence in the rest of the world and not just an issue within the Irish scene. Unlike other countries though, Irish people embrace American and English music far more than their own. Our country is small too sustain many acts due to most Irish people’s lack of interest in their local scene and therefore these bands are under pressure to make it in England and America or simply disappear if they can’t. With the exception of Aslan, very few bands can survive by touring and releasing albums in Ireland alone.
Therefore, I decided to write up a small piece of my favorite group on the scene at the moment Concerto for Constantine. While the members of the band have all carved out their own place on the Irish scene, they are now working together for something much bigger. National and International acclaim.
The band comprises of Mark Greaney (former vocals and axe man for JJ72, a very successful Irish group for the late nineties/ early millennium). Mark managed to amount great success in his time with JJ72 as they released two albums, selling nearly a million copies, and toured the world for years. An astonishing feat, especially considering that JJ72 was formed while all the members were still in the middle of their leaving cert. Unfortunately, JJ72 ran into difficulties. Original bass player Hilary Woods left to peruse a college degree and a family in 2003, leaving remaining members Mark and Fergal Matthews to carry on with her replacement Sarah Fox. The band appeared as if they were on a hiatus for two years while they wrote and recorded their third album. They returned in 2005 with a single She’s Gone and a tour in support of its release. Later in the year they released a second single entitled Coming Home and promoted it by doing a tour of small venues across the UK and Ireland culminating in a main stage slot of Donnington’s Download Festival.
In early 2006 JJ72 split under the frustration of issues with the release of their third album. Mark carried on working on solo material after the split and even went on a UK tour in support of Simple Kid to preview some of the material. While Mark was writing material for his solo début in New York, he received a call from old friend Gavin Fox that lead to the formation of Concerto for Constantine.
‘Even, Mark at one stage hinted that I might join JJ72 and play guitar on tour with them, but at the time Turn had just formed and were kicking off and JJ72 worked well as a three piece. Eventually the chance came up when I left Vega4. Mark was in New York working on his solo album and I gave him a call and said ‘Let’s do this, lets form a rock band now‘ – Gavin Fox, 2008.
Gavin Fox has an equally full experience on the music scene as Mark. Gavin first came to prominence with Irish indie legends ‘Turn’. The Kell’s group formed by Ollie Cole, Gavin and Ian Melady in 1998. Gavin spent roughly four years with Turn before leaving to join Idelwild. Like JJ72, Turn experienced many issues from the start of their career with the record industry. Although their first three singles and first EP (Facedown, Beretta, Beeswax and Check My Ears) all came out in quick succession, they were self financed and uncomplicated. It was their début that marked the start of Turn’s problems. (2000′s Antisocial). The album gained high acclaim from most critics, however, lack of endorsement from their label (Infectious) and no advertising or promotion budget forced the band to leave the label and once again try on their own. In 2001 the ‘In Position EP’ was released on their own ‘Nurture‘ label and once again put the group back in the Irish spotlight. Although once again the band didn’t have the funds to advertise or promote the album outside of touring.
While recording their follow up ‘Forward’ in late 2001, Gavin got a call from ‘Idlewild’ with an offer to join their group. Frustrated with Turn’s lack of growth, Gavin left to join the Scottish Rockers and remained art of the group for over four years. After Idelwild, Gavin joined ‘Vega4′, a London based group which he played in for just under a year. It was after leaving Vega4 he decided to call Mark.
The line up was completed by Paul ‘Binzer’ Brennan after an invitation from Gavin to come down and join himself and Mark for a rehearsal. Although Mark had never met ‘Binzer’, he was welcomed with open arms to the group on their first meeting. Paul has played with some of ..Ireland.. best acts and on many famous recordings, including ‘The Frames, Dance the Devil’ and ‘Bell X1′s Music in Mouth’ to name but two. He has toured and recorded with other acts such as ‘Paddy Casey, Mundy, Gemma Hayes, Halite‘ and many more. His experience and talent behind the kit made him the perfect choice for Concerto and completed the lineup.
Concerto started rehearing new material and songs that Mark had been working on for his sole release were shelved as the band decided to turn back to their roots and starting writing music based on their influences (Early 90′s alt/rock such as ‘Nirvana’, The Pixies ad The Smashing Pumpkins) while also giving the songs a more modern touch. Rehearsals started in late August 2007 and the band started writing and recording demos’ instantly. In September, they were invited to perform on the 2FM 2MORO 2OUR. A nation wide showcase held twice a year in order to give new groups a platform to play their music in front of live audiences and promote themselves. It was this invite that promoted the band to consider a name for their new group that properly reflected their new sound.
‘We were confirming the details and they asked ‘what’s the name of the band’ because they were doing up posters for the tour, so I said yeah it’s ready I’ll call ya back in a couple of Hours‘ – Mark Greany 2008.
The name was completed by using ‘Concerto for’ which Gavin had seen on ITunes while scrolling through song names and completed by ‘Constantine’, A name the Synonymous with a recurring dream Mark’s mother had been having for years about a young boy walking a lobster (on a leash) on a beach at night while a voice calls the name ‘Constantine‘ from beyond the sand dunes. Marks mother had told him only the week before the 2FM call that she had the dream again and Mark felt it was a sign.
Concerto for Constantine continued rehearsing and on the 28th September, made their radio début on the Jenny Huston show on 2FM. The band played two tracks acoustically which were recorded live on air. On the 15th November 2007, the group played their first live show at the Sky venue, Portlaois. The band later claimed this to be the worst show of the tour. They played a further 10 dates on the tour in venues across Ireland. By the end they had established a basic fan base.
The group spent a further two months rehearsing and recording before returning to the stage. The future single ‘Minsk’ was recorded between December and February’. An early version was posted on their Myspace along with four other songs ‘Gaps, Killing Fields, WASP’s and Cat’s Cradle’. However, this version was replaced by newer recording featuring a much raunchier bass line. In late January, the band announced that they were invited to support ‘The Smashing Pumpkins’ at their Irish dates in Dublin and Belfast (9th and 10th February 2008 respectively). They were also invited to support ‘The Futureheads’ for a one off show in Sligo’s newest venue ‘The Clarence’. The Smashing Pumpkins support slot fulfilled a life long dream for Mark who had come close to supporting Billy Corgan on to previous occasions while he was with JJ72. The band even managed to find three stage props for the occasion. Three box’s made to look like Amp heads with each word of the bands name in ‘Georgia’ font, that lit up.
During the Pumpkins support slot, the band announced their first headlining show at Dublin infamous rock bar ‘Fibber Magee’s’, an event organized by ‘Muzzle Music’. On February 22nd the group took to the stage playing nine songs, the five that had been previewed on their MySpace and four un heard tracks, ‘Silver, Falling, Everything and Knife’. The show was sold out and promotion for the night included everything from posters and flyer’s to stickers. It was considered a triumph and the band wasted no time announcing another headlining show in the same venue on the 17th March 2008, this time for ‘Secondlife.com’ who were web casting the show. They were also confirmed as special guests for 2FM’s ‘School of Rock….’ showcase. A competition for younger groups to play in a large venue and win prizes such as vouchers for musical equipment and recording time. Concerto played the event on the 9th March making it their second appearance in Whelan’s and also their second day time show (the first being the Village on the 25th November as the last date of the 2FM 2MORO 2OUR).
Unfortunately, the second headlining show in Fibber’s didn’t capture the magic from the first. The promoters for the event hadn’t advertised the show anywhere and there wasn’t so much as a poster put up about the performance. There was also an issue with stage times as the band were originally scheduled to appear at 8:00pm. However, the pub was next to empty (being St. Patrick’s day and a Monday, most people had finished drinking at 18:00 in order to be able to work the following morning. Instead they went on-stage at 10:30 and played for just under an hour. Their performance was further hindered by problems with Gavin’s Bass head and the lack of a crowd.
The following day, Concerto embarked for London to play two shows, the first at The Dublin Castle (March 18th), a legendary underground venue for Indie and rock talent. The second was at Club 229 (19th). Both shows were described as a massive success.
On March 11th the band announced their first headlining show in Whelan’s on April 15th. The event, which is being promoted by MCD and Phantom FM is the set to be the biggest headlining show the band have played to date. The are also set to play the IMRO showcase on the 11th of April in The Sugar Club. They also announced on the 8th April that they have been asked to support The Enemy at their show on the 9th in Dublin’s Ambassador.
Concerto for Constantine have gotten ‘Minsk’ remixed by classic JJ72 and Turn producer ‘Marc Carolan’. The original recording and mix of ‘Minsk‘ was done by ‘Neil Mitchell’.
After only eight moths together the band have already achieved more than most bands with records and more dates under their belt could dream of in their first two years. Some critics of the band base this on each members already established reputations on the scene. Although this has made thing go a little smoother for the group, it would be very wrong to deny that their music isn’t up to scratch for the offers and acclaim they are receiving.
Fans of the band are hoping to see some material released in 2008 such as an EP or even a full debut album. In the mean time, the band are content with promoting themselves through their incredible live performances which show the work they have been putting in during breaks between shows. They have also amassed an albums worth of material which can only be added to over the year.
Concerto played their first full headlining show in Whelan’s and blew the place away. The venue was packed and the upstairs section had to be opened to deal with the amount of people who turned up. They played 12 songs with ‘Minsk’ opening and closing the show (I assume they played Minsk twice as a result of running out of songs and also to ensure the audience got to hear songs they knew as they still have no Single, EP or album for sale) They truly pulled out all the stops for what I can only describe as their best performance yet.
27th July 2008: OXEGEN Update.
Concerto have played four shows in July without much noise surrounding any of them. The biggest was their début performance at Oxegen. They opened up Saturday in one of the tents and I’m told there was a massive crowd in attendance. The word is (from people who’s taste I respect) that they were stellar and played a fantastic show.
However, the other ‘official report’ from Ireland’s leading U2 fanzine ‘HOT Press’ that they weren’t much of s spectacle. Read Stuart Clarke’s words below.
(Intro about finding an undiscovered gem in the morning and bragging about watching their show with 50 people when their headlining a stage next year)
Unfortunately for me (and therefore for you), the bands I happen upon in the early hours – namely Concerto for Constantine are unlikely to trouble such heights, mainly because their both pretty boring: the former throw all the right shapes but make none of the right noises.
Stuart Clarke – HOT Press Vol:32 Issue: 14, p.40.
This follows on from their last bad review in the Independent by infamous music knocker John Meagher (indecently a man who thought the Flaws released the greatest Irish album last year…J).
Check it out – http://www.independent.ie/entertainment/music/uninspiring-constantine-a-sight-for-sore-eyes-1352872.html> John Meagher’s Review @Independent.ie
With two of Ireland’s leading respectable Music writers against them, Concerto will have to continue to prove themselves as a band for some time to come.
Whelan’s – April 15th Set list:
- Cats Cradle
- The Last Swim
- Killing Fields (With a drum solo intro)
- Death in Lisbon (Instrumental)
- Minsk (‘One for the Road’)
Fibber MaGee’s – Feb 22nd 2008 Setlist:
- Cats Cradle
- Killing Fields
Concerto Gig History: (Tickets There attended gigs in Bold – Pictures and Set lists available)
Nov 15 – Sky Venue, Portlaoise
Nov 16 – Electric Avenue, Watherford
Nov 17 – Cyprus Avenue, Cork (All Ages Show + Evening Show)
Nov 18 – Trinity Rooms, ..Limerick..
Nov 19 – Roisin Dubh, Galway
Nov 21 – Left Bank Sligo
Nov 22 – Spirit Store, Dundalk
Nov 23 – The Stables, Mullingar
Nov 24 – Whelan’s, Dublin
Nov 25 – The Village, Dublin
Jan 31 – The Clarence, ..Sligo.. (Heineken Green Sphere’s supporting The Futureheads)
Feb 09 – The R.D.S., Dublin (Supporting the Smashing Pumpkins)
Feb 10 – The King’s Hall, Belfast (Supporting The Smashing Pumpkins)
Feb 22 – Fibber Magee’s, Dublin (First Headlining Show) *(See Set list above)
Mar 09 – Whelan’s, Dublin (2FM School of Rock show)
Mar 17 – Fibber Magee’s, Dublin (St. Patrick’s Day Show)
Mar 18 – Dublin Castle, London
Mar 19 – Club 229, London
Apr 09 – The Ambassador, Dublin (Supporting The Enemy)
Apr 11 – The Sugar Club, Dublin (IMRO Showcase)
Apr 15 – Whelan’s, Dublin (First Headlining show in Whelan’s)
May 08 – TBC ***Postponed***
May 09 – The Trinity Ball (Trinity college Dublin)
18th June – Red Bull Oxegen Promo Tour – Waterford (Venue TBC) (This show seems to be cancelled)
19th June – Red Bull Oxegen Promo Tour – Ennis (Venue TBC)(This show seems to be cancelled)
20th June – Red Bull Oxegen Promo Tour – Letterkenny (Venue TBC)
21st June – Red Bull Oxegen Promo Tour – Belfast (Venue TBC)
12th July – Oxegen
13th July – T in the Park
3rd Oct – Andrews Lane Theatre (With the Aftermath, Phantom Show).
18th – The Ambassador, Dublin (Oxjam 08)
20th – Heineken Green Spheres – Crane Lane Cork
28th – The Academy (DJ Set Only)
28th – Radio City (Revolver), Dublin (With The Aftermath)
1st – The O2 Dublin, Supporting Snow Patrol
15th – The O2 London, Supporting Snow Patrol
25th – Radio City, DJ Set Only
Four songs were recorded for a 2FM Live Session in September 2007. ‘Gap’s', WASP’s, Killing Field’s and Cats Cradle‘. All current recordings are considered Demo’s and will be rerecorded for any official release.
‘Minsk’ was recorded between January and February 2008 and produced by Neil Mitchell. Two versions were mixed and previewed on MySpace. On the 7th April 2008 a new mix of the song was posted to MySpace. Mark confirmed this version had been mixed by long time JJ72 and Turn producer ‘Marc Carolan’ who now mixes songs for ‘The Cure’ and ‘Muse’
On April 10th, Minsk was released as a free download on Phantom FM’s official website,
There has never been any official word of Demos for ‘Silver, Falling, Everything or Knife’ although it’s more than likely that all four songs have been recorded for demo’s along with other unheard tracks especially considering Binzer’s comments about the support slot for ‘The Enemy’….
‘We figure it’d be a good opportunity to road test some new tunes for our Whelan’s gig on the 15th‘ – Binzer April 8th 2008On the 29th May, Concerto confirmed on their MySpace that they have spent the time since Whelan’s writing new material and getting ready to enter the studio to record their ‘first proper single’ the following week.
On August 18th, Binzer posted a blog on MySpace stating that Concerto or now preparing to record their debut album and are hoping to head into the studio in October/November, Currently the band haven’t confirmed if they have a decided on a studio or a producer yet.