For many a year it seemed that Northern Irish music fans were getting the raw end of the deal when it came to live shows from their favourite bands. For bands a combination of the logistical challenges of the Irish sea and a volatile political situation put off many musicians from visiting our lovely shores. It seems though that times are a changing. In 2011 we witnessed Eminem blow away crowds in Ward Park, Bangor of all places while 2012 saw two of the biggest American rock bands around – the Foo Fighters and Blink 182 make their first ever visits to Northern Ireland. Both the Mark Hoppus and Dave Grohl expressed their regret and not coming to visit us sooner but promised to come back soon! In America fans usually have to travel significant distances to see their heroes so I can understand why many only choose to play Dublin when they do go out on tour. Nevertheless I have put together a quick list of musicians that should visit Northern Ireland in 2013.
// Death Cab for Cutie
The last time the indie band visited Belfast was back in November 2008 and unfortunately I had not discovered them. They did not receive rave reviews that night partially due to a poor choice of venue and probably had a lot to do with the band’s anger that Ben Gibbard was hit in the face with a bottle by someone in the crowd. In all it is not really a surprise they haven’t to Northern Ireland in recent times. It is perhaps quite a long shot due to the fact that the band as a whole has already done their UK tour and Ben’s recent solo tour only hit London. In our favour is the fact that bassist Nick Harmer had a good time and based on the theory that times heals everything we hope Ben will give us another chance!
// Bloc Party
Having started their career with the magnificent debut album ‘Silent Alarm’ their other albums have had varying levels of success. One thing they are renowned for is their live show, something Northern Irish fans haven’t witnessed since 2005 (excluding Kele’s solo tour in 2010). Indeed in October I chose to fly to Glasgow to see the band live as they had not announced any gigs in Ireland. Having just announced two nights in Dublin’s Olympia, one would hope Kele and the gang would venture North for an evening, there is certainly room in the schedule.
Based on this quote from Chris Wolstenholme, “The first time we played Belfast it was part of the Absolution tour and we were at the Ulster Hall. The crowd went absolutely bananas. It was crazy. Then when we came back to the Odyssey Arena, it was the same madness, but this time on a bigger scale.” You would be forgiven for assuming that Muse visited Belfast every time they were on tour. Unfortunately this has not been the case, they last graced us with their presence in 2006 (one of the best gigs I have ever been to) but their recent tour in support of ‘The 2nd Law’ avoided us again. Our last hope to see them in 2013 may be for a headline slot at Tennent’s Vital 2013 and that would be fantastic.
// The Strokes
Similar to Bloc Party, the Strokes debut album received high critical and public acclaim but unfortunately for us was last here was 2003. On that night Julian Casablancas is quoted by NME as saying “Belfast, you are fucking brilliant…This is crazy, amazing, thank you.” The band are currently working on their fifth studio album and seem to have resolved some of the internal tensions that have caused fans worry in the past. Perhaps if we pester Julian enough he will remember that one night in the Ulster Hall where the sold out crowd certainly got their money’s worth. The demand is certainly there, that particular appearance sold out in only ten minutes.
// Franz Ferdinand
Fans in the UK struggled to adjust to the Scottish quartet’s move to a more danceable musical style on their third album. Press reviews edged towards negative and the band have gone from selling out the Odyssey Arena in 2005 (they even advertised it on TV) to just about filling the Mandela Hall in 2009. A new album is imminent and reviews of their latest show suggest a return to a much rawer style, good news for fans turned off by the synthesised styling of ‘Tonight.’ With a return to a more guitar based sound and the considerable number of solid hits, I reckon you would have no trouble finding a considerable number of people keen spend an evening with the boys in an intimate venue.
Given my soft spot for piano driven ballads and the likes of Snow Patrol and Travis it is no real surprise to find Embrace on this list. The band have been on a long hiatus since 2007 but have announced plans for a new album in 2013. Having never seen them live and considering the number of times I have listened to their album ‘Out of Nothing,’ it would be nice to hear a few of those tracks live. They may not have been the coolest band to listen to but three number one albums is no mean feat for any group of musicians. It’s time the boys “Come Back To What They Know,” release another successful album and play a wee show in Belfast.
// Bon Jovi
File this one under highly unlikely seeing as the American rockers have been confirmed as the headline act for Slane 2013. But at a pricey 80 euros and a long trek south of the border, Northern Irish fans are probably hoping they play an evening or two in Belfast, especially when their other arena tours are offering you the chance to see them for a mere £12.50! That is a ridiculously cheap price for a band who have sold over 130 million records worldwide and have a set list packed with hits that most musicians would kill for. Not to mention that ‘Livin’ on a Prayer’ would sound fantastic backed up by a 14,000 capacity crowd in the Odyssey Arena.
// The Vaccines
It has been something of a surprise that the Vaccines haven’t returned to Belfast since their sold out headline slot at the Speakeasy back in March 2011, although they were scheduled to return in support of Beady Eye the same year but lead singer, Justin had some vocal problems and were forced to pull out. Perhaps half the problem is there aren’t too many venues big enough to hold them when all of their UK stadium dates sold out and they will be playing a gig in the 90,000 capacity Wembley Stadium. My money is on a summer festival appearance at either Tennent’s Vital or Belsonic and it will be a cracker!
Renowned for being one of the best and most distinctive guitar players alive today, any live appearance of the man himself should not be missed. In 2010 after releasing his solo album (more a Slash and friends album due to every track having a cameo guest) he announced a surprise show in the intimate setting of the Mandela Hall. Tickets were like gold dust but thankfully I managed to get one and what a show it was. Definitely the sweatiest and most raucous gig I have ever had the privilege of attending and it was clear that Slash and his touring band enjoyed themselves as they announced they couldn’t wait to get back. It was a major disappointment for Irish fans when there were no dates on his current tour in 2012. But Slash took to twitter to re-assure us that he would return in 2013. No dates have been confirmed as yet but prepare yourselves, it could will get loud!
// John Mayer
This is another one that is extremely unlikely but one can only hope. He may grab the headlines in the gossip magazines for all the wrong reasons but there is no denying John’s talent as a musician. His touring plans were wrecked in 2012 thanks to a re-occurrence of a granuloma in his vocal chords. Any public appearances it would seem will not be until the back end of 2013 while he recovers from surgery. Still, a debut appearance in Northern Ireland would be a treat for fans of various genres; having started his career focusing on acoustic rock, he has dabbled in jazz, worked with rap artists like Kanye West and more recently moved towards a more country tinged sound. I do fear his tendency to play only three or four major cities in the UK may scupper our chances of witnessing a supremely talented musician gracing our shores.