How did you spend lockdown? Paul Noonan, the front man of pop rock ensemble Bell X1, spent his time at home reaching out to families in theirs, with a series of concerts streamed live on Facebook.
The concerts were a charming ramshackle affair, in which Noonan used his children’s toys and his extremely cute children, to bring to life classic children’s songs, as well Bell X1 favourites.
This live version for the Dublin Fringe Festival’s Young Radicals programme is a more mannered production, with Noonan appearing alone onstage in front of a simple projected backdrop stuffed with teddies. Noonan is a relaxed and engaging presence and his low voice has a country twang that rejuvenates familiar songs like The Wheels on the Bus, Old Mac Donald and Down by the Bay.
He also treats us to a sung-through version of Dr Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham, an animated child-friendly version of the Bell X1 hit Rocky Took a Lover, and an improvised ode to Beans, co-created with his Facebook Live fans. Noonan has an easy mellow presence that recalls Raffi, the Canadian children’s singer whose heyday was in the 1970s.
That you have to go so far back to find palatable versions of perennial popular songs says it all: parents are crying out for decent music to listen to with their young kids.
In the extremely controlled environment of a venue operating under Covid regulations, Noonan struggles to find the kinetic, chaotic spirit that helped him to connect with the audience online.
A few easy adjustments (a more defined visual edge, getting the teddies in the audience involved, giving the children an opportunity to use the secret presents stashed under their seats) would bring a little bit of extra energy to the 50-minute show.
Audience numbers are necessarily small during these challenging times, but a recorded album would help Noonan to find a wider audience for his family-friendly repertoire. Hint hint.