Arts, Off Campus

Dublin-Based Artist Somebody’s Child Wins Over Its First U.S. Audience 

Before Cian Godfrey took the stage at The Middle East on Wednesday night, he went through a routine akin to a pitcher prior to a World Series start. With 10 minutes remaining until his set began, Godfrey sat alone, slumped over a Redbull, smoking a hand-rolled cigarette on the venue’s patio. Donning a black hoodie and green cargo pants, he moved about the summer air with the anonymity of any Wednesday night bar patron. Minutes before he began playing, Godfrey stood up and started through the venue’s front door. 

“First one’s always the toughest,” he said as he walked through the bar toward the stage for Somebody’s Child’s first show as headliner in the United States. 

Godfrey’s band had been on the stage tuning their guitars for 30 minutes before its front man entered the venue. Moments after arrival, it launched into “The Lover” without skipping a beat. 

Cast in dim red and green lights, Somebody’s Child kicked off its first U.S. tour with the energy of a band who waited through COVID to release its debut album and waited months to perform in Boston after its tour—scheduled for spring—was postponed until September. 

By the end of the first song, beads of sweat were forming on Godfrey’s forehead as his two guitarists immediately filled the divey venue with garage-esque distortion and noise. 

Somebody’s Child came out strong, but the crowd had no response. The lack of reciprocated spirit was palpable given the intimate venue. A few scattered fans danced through the band’s first tracks, but Godfrey sang alone. 

The early lack of vitality, though, fell in line with what Godfrey said in an interview with The Heights.. 

“I’ve seen it from other people’s perspectives, you know, how difficult of a market it is to crack,” he said. “American bands want to come to the U.K. and U.K. bands and Irish bands want to go to America. It’s a kind of you’ve made it. It’s got that tag. It’s an exciting prospect. … We’re basically starting again over there honestly.”

Somebody’s Child boasts over 180,000 monthly listeners on Spotify, a respectable number for an indie rock act. Spotify also sorts listeners by location. Four of his top locations are in Great Britain. The fifth is his home country—Ireland. 

Godfrey’s first U.S. crowd knew the chorus of some of his hits, but for the most part he was right. He was starting over. 

The band was not deterred by the early lack of crowd energy. Instead, it took it as a challenge to win over their first U.S. audience. 

“We know it’s a tough market,” Godfrey said. “Once people get behind you, they really get behind you. So it’s just about putting yourself out there and making sure you get the best shows possible.”

After the opening song ended, Godfrey spoke to the crowd for the first time. 

“We are Somebody’s Child from Ireland,” he said. “This is our first U.S. headlined show.”

From there, the band moved into a rendition of “Sell Out.” It didn’t take long for Godfrey to settle down. With his eyes closed and head reared back, he clutched the microphone close to his face in a tight, two-handed grip. The band featured a drummer, a bassist, and two guitarists. For some songs, Godfrey picked his guitar up to make three. Its loud, accessible indie-grunge sound filled the venue perfectly. The guitarists took center stage sonically and visually, with the lively pair jumping around mirroring Godfrey’s energy. 

“Sell Out” set the stage for what was to come. With their vitality and sound established for a crowd largely alien to both, Somebody’s Child got to work winning its audience over. 

“The music we make is meant to be played live,” Godfrey said. “Every gig is a little bit different and that’s what’s exciting about it. You get to finally play these songs to people and hear what connection they’ve had with the songs. It’s a great feeling. … You just gather momentum as you go.” 

Just past half way into the show, an upbeat performance of “TV Screams” permanently earned the crowd’s approval. Godfrey showcased the energy and emotional power of his music through the first half of the set, but he finally combined the two on “TV Screams.” The crowd responded immediately to the song’s quick, danceable early notes. With his guitar hanging from his neck, Godfrey once again took the microphone with two hands, singing at an expressive volume that approached yelling. 

Once Godfrey captured the atmosphere’s momentum, he didn’t let go. Upon the conclusion of “TV Screams,” he joked with his audience through a thick Irish accent asking “can you guys understand me?”

Confidence and momentum pushed Somebody’s Child through the rest of the show. “How Long?” saw Godfrey take his first guitar solo of the night. On “What I Said,” he sat at the edge of the stage while screaming the chorus. The final four-song run, however, was the highlight of the night. 

“Complete freedom on stage is what you’re trying to achieve,” Godfrey said. “Complete connection with your audience and with the songs themselves. You hope within that you find some synergy between those three aspects—yourself, the audience, and the songs.”

Godfrey achieved complete freedom on “I Need Ya.” One of his guitarists leapt off the side of the stage to play among the audience. Godfrey followed suit. His first American audience parted and took to singing along, a change from its previous behavior. Godfrey poured his emotions into the simple chorus, and the crowd followed suit. 

Somebody’s Child kept the audience engaged through soulful renditions of “Jungle” and “Last Night I Held Your Hand,” an unreleased song. Godfrey had fully won over the at-first-hesitant crowd, building up to his final song, “We Could Start a War.”

Godfrey said “We Could Start a War” is the best song he’s ever written, so it’s only fitting that it concluded his first show in the United States. 

“[‘We Could Start a War’] has been there for so long and the fact that I’m not sick of it is probably a testament to the song itself,” Godfrey said. “But I hope that this new album will generate some new stuff because I can’t keep saying that.”

Godfrey concluded the show by turning up his energy and enthusiasm another notch. Sweat ran down his face as he yelled the lyrics and the crowd danced along. When Somebody’s Child struck the final notes of the night, the crowd erupted. People yelled for an encore and asked him to play it again. 

After concluding the set, Godfrey stuck around. He walked off the left side of the stage and started taking photos and talking with fans lining up to meet him. 

Ten minutes after the conclusion of the final song, the room was as packed as it had been when Godfrey first walked on to the stage. Eventually, he migrated to behind the merchandise table and started signing records and CDs, continuing to chat and pose for pictures in the process. 

Godfrey humbly introduced himself to a stagnant crowd at the start of the show as “Somebody’s Child from Ireland.” He walked through the venue’s front door at the start of the show and took the stage to scattered applause, but by its end, he had turned a room of observers into a room of fans. Thirty minutes after the last song, Godfrey was still shaking hands and signing records. 

Somebody’s Child still has not caught on in the United States. It will take more than one show for American cities to start popping up on his Spotify top listeners page, and he will likely be received at his next shows in New York City and Washington, D.C. similar to how he was in Boston. Still, the talent, energy, and music are all there. 

“We wanted the first album to sound uncut and new, and I think we achieved that,” Godfrey said. The second album is introducing an acoustic sound back into things. It’s more songwriting based … than the first album which was about energy. I hope it develops into a bigger sound as we start to play bigger venues.”

Somebody’s Child is now a name on a historic, star-studded list of U.K. and Irish bands that have jumped the Atlantic and discovered newfound success. With an American label and a sound that appeals to the masses, all that’s missing is time. If he stays on track, next time Godfrey takes the stage in Boston, he won’t need to win anyone over. 

September 24, 2023