No Oil Paintings EP launch with support from Katie and The Carnival & VerseChorusVerse
Friday 9th June 2017 – Black Box, Belfast
Launch nights are always a cause for celebration. The scores of friends and family alongside the artist’s enthusiasm usually make for special nights. No Oil Paintings geared up for the release of their second EP ‘Too Close to the Sun’ on Friday with one such show in Belfast’s Black Box.
As the crowd steadily found their way into the venue, the first of a strong line-up made his way to the stage. The popular figure of VerseChorusVerse, otherwise known as Tony Wright, scarcely needs an introduction. Grabbing the crowd’s attention with some creative coughing, VerseChorusVerse prefers to ease into things with a quiet opener before raising the tempo bit by bit. ‘Yet To Break’ is accompanied by Wright’s enthusiastic foot-stomping in its bigger moments.
Wright works his way through a number of styles including a Gene Vincent pastiche in ‘Shake Down Sally’ and regular closer, a cover of old standard ‘Sixteen Tonnes’. The most effective weapon in Wright’s arsenal is undoubtedly his versatile voice. Shown best on ‘So Much Nothing’ and ‘Have Some Soul’. The latter, appearing on 2015’s David Lyttle collaboration, sees Wright’s voice climb seamlessly from deep Waitsian howl to a light, quiet tone. Every track of VerseChorusVerse’s set is greeted with hearty applause as the room fills up.
The main support on the night is a rare treat for local music fans. Led by Katie Richardson, Katie and the Carnival are making their first appearance in five years. A six piece tonight (with the addition of Bird & Bramble’s Stef Campbell on a few songs), consisting of upright bass, drums, guitar and Richardson joined by two backing vocalists, the band waste no time in endearing themselves with ‘Went To The Fair’. The short, soulful introduction gives way to a rolling beat and a refrain of ‘Do you love me?’ from the the two backing vocalists.
Playing one of their ‘first songs ever’, their appeal is as clear as day. The soulful three-piece harmonies cast a lovingly retro pop sound, enhanced by nuanced upright bass and even the vocalists’ floral dresses. The track rises in energy throughout before falling away to a three part harmony. There are plenty of highlights throughout their well received set, from ‘Long Long Time’ and its great hook to ‘Fancy Face’. The latter is a catchy concoction of ba-dum vocals and rhythm and blues which finally and deservedly moves the audience from foot-tapping to dancing. The band finish on ‘Dinosaurs’, a sweet pop song and their last ever release. But special praise is reserved for a ‘Secret Song’, a slow, smooth and swaying ballad that may be the performance’s best.
With that it’s time for our headliners. Taking their place on stage one by one to drummer George Sloan’s beat, No Oil Paintings launch into the brilliant ‘God Only Knows’. The steady beat and harmonised refrain is a bold statement of an opener that fades into an acapella outro. To say frontman Chris Kelly is expressive would be an understatement. His animated stage manner and frequent but lengthy stage chat echoing the band’s excitement on the night.
It can be hard to pinpoint No Oil Paintings’ sound, country elements seep into the sleepy harmonies of ‘Different Lights’ while ‘Dance Tune’ is understandably upbeat with Sean Doone’s speedy and intricate banjo delivering a distinctly different element from most bands of their ilk.
It’s a confident and spirited set delivered to an appreciative audience assembled to celebrate their new EP ‘Too Close to the Sun’ that also showcases their versatility as a live act. A cinematic Townes Van Zandt cover is followed by a song dedicated to the DUP and Donald Trump for their environmental views and leads to our first ‘tops off’ moment. Nailing his colours to the mast immediately, the first line has Doone sing ‘cut me before you cut my tree’, while new one ‘Something Like The Truth’ has more political messages.
With the inevitable encore and the rest of the band stripping off, the band’s excitement has transformed into grateful emotion as they dedicate the penultimate track to their mums and dads. Stripped back to banjo and acoustic guitar, ‘Orphans Lullaby’ is a quiet and reflective moment. Much like tonight’s support acts, No Oil Paintings’ biggest strength lies in their vocals. When the band come together as here, their four part harmonies produce a moving, incredible sound, enhanced by some audience participation. ‘All Our Woes’ from earlier in their set, introduced by slowly strummed acoustic guitar and banjo is a brooding track that builds in drama, with the multi-part harmonies increasing the emotion tenfold.
There’s just enough time for the new single ‘Icarus’ with its chorus of “it’s better to burn out than fade away”. Another big banjo break brings it up a notch before the refrain plays out the song, the launch and the night.