Written by Zach Grossfeld
Picture This took the stage at Irving Plaza NYC on Tuesday, April 30th. Here’s our take on the show:
This week, I had the pleasure of seeing Picture This take the stage at Irving Plaza in NYC. I’m tempted to call them an “Irish Sensation,” but the band is much more than that. They are winning over fans in America and across the globe one by one. Before the show, I spoke with Ryan, Jimmy, Cliff, and Owen of Picture This for a podcast. We discussed the band’s beginnings, skyrocketing to fame in their home country, and diffusing fights with fans. Recently, a few guys attempted to brawl with the band only to recognize them as Picture This, which ended the melee before anything had a chance to start. It turns out that getting recognized by your fans is the best way to stop a scuffle.
Luckily, no fists flew at Irving Plaza, but the energy from both the band and the crowd reached levels I’ve never experienced. As ‘MDRN LV’ began to burst from the speakers, heads whipped towards the stage and never looked away. Ryan Hennessy, the lead singer, belted the lyric “This Is Modern Love” and urgently pointed down with both hands as if to say “Right here, right now, this is our night.” Ryan’s facial contortions, mid-riff 360-degree spins, and shuffles in place made it apparent that he lost himself in the music as much, or maybe even more than the crowd. From Jimmy on drums to Cliff and Owen on guitar to Ryan on lead, the whole band ascended to a level of energy that washed over the crowd. The sold out Irving Plaza maxed out at 1200 people, but Picture This played it like 120,000.
Each time Ryan would point his mic to the crowd, which happened over a dozen times, every person visible to me sang sparing no breath. Many times, a band will put their mic to the crowd only to hear the sound level drop off. No such thing happened. Signaled by the mic, the crowd responded with equal energy to the band. This exchange of emotion went back and forth throughout the set.
As things heated up, Ryan flashed some shoulder skin and eventually ripped off his blood red blazer to reveal a sparkling silver cutoff. When Cliff and Owen announced their presence with face melting guitar riffs, Ryan would get down on both knees and outstretch his hands as if to say “I am not worthy.” All the while, Jimmy provided the heartbeat of Irving Plaza, throwing in stirring solos of his own.
Midway through the set, the entire crowd, unprompted, started chanting “Olé, Olé, Olé Olé!” like they were on the cusp of an Ireland Football match. Ryan hoisted the Irish Flag and beat his chest to the fans, who roared even louder. I’ve never been to a match in Dublin, but I imagine I got a taste of it that night.
This band may hail from the Republic of Ireland, more specifically the town of Athy (pronounced At-tie), but the place was packed with Americans and Irish alike. This was not just a showing for Ireland. Although, at one point, a drunk fellow bumped into me and asked me where he could find the “toilet.” It was behind me to the left.
In a spirit shared by Ireland and America, Ryan leapt up onto the stage left speaker and clasped hands with fans on the balcony. One fan handed Ryan a beer, from which he took a polite sip and handed it back to its owner. As the drink, song, and dance flowed, the band took the time between songs to remind everyone that “New York City, This is your fucking night!” Before my eyes, I watched as four laid-back, low-key guys on a podcast transformed into vibrant, uniting force taking the Plaza by storm.
For their final song, the band played ‘Take My Hand’ as dozens of guys and girls climbed atop the shoulders of their peers. Over a thousand fans sang lyrics in unison as the band closed out the night with the song that started it all. A few years ago, Ryan posted a stripped down version of ‘Take My Hand’ to his Facebook page, which caught the attention of Jimmy Rainsford. They then created a fully produced version of the song which is now an anthem in pubs across Ireland and hearts around the world. As Ryan told the crowd, “We will be back NYC, but next time at a bigger venue.”
Picture This will be on tour through May and I implore you to go check out a show. You can find the link to their tour schedule below. If you can’t make it to the show, at least go check out their music and their most recent project MDRN LV (also below). You’ll want to move and dance to every track, even the sadder, break-up jams. Thank you to Ryan, Jimmy, Owen, Cliff and the Picture This team for setting up the podcast conversation, which will be dropping soon, and thank you to Bryan Kehn of Republic Records for hooking us up with tickets. Cheers.