Reviewed on Saturday July 5 (photo by Ashley Mar)

In Ireland, Bell X1 are kind of a big deal – they get the most radio airplay in their home country besides U2. In Australia, if you’ve heard of them it’s probably thanks to The O.C., which featured ‘Eve, The Apple Of My Eye’ (it played when Marissa first kissed Alex). Named after the first aircraft to break the sound barrier, Bell X1’s first-ever Sydney show was equal parts uplifting and sentimental, but not quite supersonic.


The Phoncurves opened the night, taking a little while to warm up onstage. Quirky charm is one thing, but at times they felt a little awkward. Thankfully, they hit their groove with a cover of M.I.A.’s ‘Paper Planes’, replacing guitars with a looping station and nerves with genuine smiles. ‘Heartstrings’ showcased Abbie Roberts’ gorgeous voice while Naomi Burrell came off sultry and confident during ‘Lover’.


Bell X1 came to the stage before a packed-out Hi-Fi, with singer Paul Noonan sheepishly admitting they weren’t sure if anyone would show up. The crowd – which it seemed was about 70 per cent Irish – knew every word, and was not shy about singing along.


Noonan’s stage presence is captivating. Whether he was grabbing the mic stand or dancing convulsively, he had us in the palm of his hand from start to finish.  Somehow, he could belt “I’m not over you / Can I get back under?” without coming off as sleazy. His overall delivery fell between hopelessly romantic and deeply cynical, delivering break-up songs with a wry smile.


Rock anthems like ‘The Great Defector’ were well balanced against slower, more intimate tracks and gave guitarist David Geraghty the chance to tear through some frenetic progressions and a blazing solo. While the more upbeat, heavier numbers had people moving, Bell X1’s strength is in the melancholy of songs like ‘Careful What You Wish For’ and ‘Bad Skin Day’. The acoustic version of ‘Built To Last’ saw guitarists Geraghty and Dominic Phillips join Noonan on vocals while the crowd chanted along.


While Bell X1 were sometimes a little cheesy, particularly on newer tracks like ‘Reacharound’, the energy of the crowd and undeniable musicianship on display mostly made up for it. They saved ‘Eve, The Apple Of My Eye,’ for the encore, and Noonan pulled off its raw, jaded lover vibe perfectly, but that might be the O.C. nostalgia talking. Bell X1 know how to charm a crowd – going back to the recorded version is almost a let-down.

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