Stephen Fahey: THE SET IT OFF

This week I brought my daughter to her first concert. Don’t worry, it was a rock band, not some plastic nonsense (we were, of course, delighted that she turned out that way). Not that we would have loved her any less for wanting to go to see some pop group (we would have, and we’d likely have disowned her too).

As she is still so young (13, going on 45, if the regular dramatics are taken into account)(not really)(really), the show started at half past six. On a Wednesday. In a small venue in Dublin City Center. Surrounded, eventually, by a large gaggle of overly excited teenagers and gloomy parents, I found myself thinking fondly back to my own first concert experience. Then the warm up acts came on stage like cannons.

Both acts held their own. In particular, Vukovi, the latter of the two, made a striking impression that gave me resounding reassurance in my daughter’s choice of musical appreciation. Then the main act came on, to frighteningly high levels of teenage delirium. It was so loud that it was actually as if John and Paul had reformed for one night only. I am not exaggerating. At all. It has to be the single most ridiculously powerful expression of unity I have ever witnessed in my life.

Set It Off, lead by one Cody Carson, who is also a dab hand on the saxophone, backed on drums by the heroically and super-humanly energetic drummer, Maxx Danziger, with Dan Clermont on guitar, piano and trumpet and Zach DeWall on bass and rhythm guitar, (both providing backing vocals) amount to the exact certainty of musicianship that any act (anywhere) could ever hope to strive for with the last ounces of strength in even the proudest of souls.

The stagecraft and determination embodied in Carson, (not even to mention his exorbitantly wealthy range of vocal abilities) came together with a blast of raw, yet pure energy that is megastardom clothed in highly intelligent reserve. He could have started a revolution from that stage, right there and then, and taken over Ireland, then the world, but instead he performed with a professionalism that was at once global and so very intimate that I swear Freddy himself was smiling down on him.

Clermont and DeWall both gave all that any sane human being could give to a performance (and much, much more), without missing one beat, all night, but each stood firmly on their own merits with a personable fortitude and showmanship that is seldom seen alongside such an enigmatic front man. And Danziger, with his brutally emotional, yet exquisitely executed halftime solo medley, obliterated any microscopic inklings of doubt even the most fickle/deaf of attendant parents may have had (none did).

Above all, the message of self respect championed by Set It Off was their gift to the youths at their feet – especially because the incredible and absolute truth of their musical performance (and I speak as a classically trained musician of over two decades and a qualified sound engineer) was married so seamlessly to their values as human beings that there was, and is, NO doubting their future as a global powerhouse.

I know in myself exactly how fortunate I am to have seen these young Gods perform before their names are on the lips of all who live and breathe. But even better, my daughter got to see them in the prime of their lives. She got to drink from the river of eternal life, because of the spirit of these good men, and by the strength of their characters. One day she will look back and tell how she was there, on that day, in that place, before they were THE Set It Off!

Stephen Fahey

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