Gifted Live Presents: The Answer
Thursday 5th July 2012 – Empire Music Hall, Belfast
Not since the open auditions for Game of Thrones has a collection of hairy, bearded men been seen in Belfast. It is the promise of a night of balls to the wall rock ‘n’ roll that has called forth such a crowd as this and with some of the biggest names in rock hailing from this island on the bill, it is difficult to see how they will be disappointed. The new set up for the Empire’s legendary Gifted! night is a far cry from the showcase for local music that it has been in the past, producers with headsets and clipboards run around manically while cameramen mingle with the crowd outside, giving the night a showbiz feel. The historic music hall is decked out with fairy lights and big screens, cameras swoop overhead capturing the night to be shown live online which is presented in a similar format to “Later with Jools Holland” including pre-recorded performances and interviews with the artists along with the all important live performances.
Although the biggest draw tonight may be The Answer playing their first album “Rise” in its entirety, the ethereal atmosphere is complemented by the mellow introduction to the evening as David Kitt begins his predominantly acoustic set from down in front of the main stage. Playing his own brand of heartfelt singer/songwriter folk music from down Dublin way, a particular highlight of the short set was a stripped down cover of ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’. Intuitively understanding the vibe of the evening, Kitt demands that the volume is turned up towards the end of his set to get the crowd going and ending on an upbeat grooving number with a fierce beat to get the crowd ready for an electric night.
Next up, playing from in front of the fairly lit stairs is Cosmo Jarvis. Hailing from Devon but playing a Southern tinged acoustic rock in the same vein as Bruce “The Boss” Springsteen, the guy knows how to get a crowd reaction. Belting out songs like ‘Look at the Sky’ with intense emotion, he entreats the crowd to “shut up! and look at the sky” which the crowd happily ignores as they give him a resounding reception of appreciation for his efforts.
Throughout the night, several interviews and pre-recorded acoustic numbers are played on the big screens around the bars. The first of which came from Dundonian band The View, who had first found fame with the help of Pete Doherty in 2007 with their debut album ‘Hat’s off to the Buskers’. Other recorded material included songs from the likes of local favourites General Fiasco who played songs off their new album ‘Unfaithfully Yours’, and Droids whose fast riffs and heavy beats are were sure to leave some sore necks by the morning. We were also given a taste of surreal electronica from Dublin’s Nanu Nanu.
The good ol’ time rock really starts as The Riptide Movement hit the stage, maybe hit isn’t strong enough a word to describe how from the get-go the rafters are shaking from powerful blues riffs and thunderous drumming of their opening number ‘Shake, Shake’. It’s easy to see how they have sold over 18,000 albums as heads start bopping and toes begin tapping happily along with effusive encouragement from singer Mal Tuohy. Whipping the whole hall into a real party atmosphere, Tuohy is like a puppet master to the crowd, wielding his marionettes with reckless abandon. The show takes on the feel of a barn dance, as John Dalton plays slide guitar with an empty beer bottle like bluesmen of old and Ger McGarry gets his harmonica out. Gar Byrne the drummer shows he has nothing but music on the brain by actually wearing a drum as a hat; all in all in this blistering half hour, these guys almost steal the show as their set ends with confetti exploding from cannons and the news that they are departing is met by disappointed groans from all sections of the crowd.
The night changes tone, but is no less appreciated, as local rap superstar Beemicksee gets up close and personal with the crowd. Donning beachwear and sunglasses, he seems to defy the inclement weather outside and helps continue the party that’s already been in full swing. Sneering out ‘I’m Not Like You’ and his own take on Pussycat Dolls ‘Don’t cha’, Beemicksee gets the crowd laughing at his athletic antics over and above his punk rap musical stylings.
Kopek burst into life as the penultimate live act of the evening. Earth shattering bass-lines, heavy drums and singer Daniel Jordan’s gravelly voice make up a sound that wouldn’t go amiss at a Kyuss or Queens of the Stone Age concert. As more beer flowed the music gets heavier giving the aforementioned hairy men what they came for. In 2005 Kopek won the Best Live Act at the Global Battle Of The Bands, garnering them $100,000 and a world tour and with a powerful ruckus of a set like this, it’s not hard to see why.
Playing all of their Rise album, familiarity doesn’t do justice to how well this collection of Answer fans respond to their favourite Northern Irish rock ‘n’ roll band. Dominating the stage they have played for the last 10 years, this gig goes somewhat back to their roots as they were a Gifted staple ‘back in the day’. Opening with ‘Under the Sky’, the band run into a few technical difficulties in the guitar department but considering they’ve played everywhere from the largest stadium to the smallest pub, this doesn’t prove to be a problem as singer Cormac Neeson and bassist Micky Waters keep the crowd alive. Rapturous applause anticipates the cauldron of noise that is generated as they kick into the second song ‘Never Too Late’. Cormac has a way with words encouraging and demanding that his audience give the world a view of Belfast nightlife to the overhead cameras. As much as I’d love to run through the entire album and deconstruct it song by song, anyone who is an Answer fan will know exactly what to expect. Highights include the the live favourite ‘Preachin’ which no matter where or when they play, always sends the crowd into a frothy whirl of bodies and sweat. The obvious encore comprises of a rather more somber affair with the band treating the world to their latest single ‘Rise’ showing that no matter how rock ‘n’ roll you are, there’s always a softer side to this band. However, the band decide to finish the night with ‘Waste Your Tears’ from their latest album, Revival. Promising the world that album number four is on the way, the band leave on a high note with the whole crowd showing the rest of the world just how we rock ‘n’ roll in Belfast. If you weren’t there, shame on you, you missed a bloody good night.