Boucher Road Playing Fields have barely had time to recover after last nights gig, but it’s straight onto day two of this year’s Tennent’s Vital festival. Opening up proceedings on the main stage is Strabane hip-hop artist Gerard McDaid AKA Gerard i2. Following in the footsteps from Trucker Diablo the day before, Gerard i2 also secured a main stage performance through the Tennent’s Untapped competition, and judging by the crowd he’s gathering, it’s a spot he has well and truly earned. A refreshingly different act compared to the usual indie and rock groups that generally find their way to opening a festival, he is accompanied by ground-shaking bass beats and a drummer that looks like he’s been pinched from the heavy metal scene. Without missing a single word or beat, the rapper only pauses for breath between songs, at which time he comes across as being genuinely thrilled and excited about being given such a prestigious honour.The Untapped tent was a little more organised today as local acts were more or less conveniently timed to nicely play during the breaks between the main stage acts. Day two’s roll call of local heroes consisted of Futurescope, Best Boy Grip, Peter McVeigh, Two Glass Eyes and Rachel Austin. Highlights included a rather electrifying performance by Futurscope, with their track Elevation gave everyone a much needed buzz to gear them up for the rest of the day, whilst Peter McVeigh’s vocals during his set not only gave Maverick Sabre a run for his money, but enticed many of the punters indoors to hear the rest of the set, including new song Stand Up, Stand Tall and my personal favourite Out of Control.
The main stage is treated to a number of sunkissed acts during the afternoon. Maverick Sabre brings a little soul to the festival with his funk and blues inspired hip-hop. Fan favourites such as I Need and Let Me Go couldn’t chill the audience out any more, as they enjoy the show in the sunshine with a beer or two. Preparing everyone for the nineties revival later in the evening, he performs a rather unique version of Wonderwall which has the entire crowd singing, even those perhaps who were paying more attention to the bar than the stage.
Rodrigo Y Gabriela return to Belfast, this time bringing a few friends along for the ride. The normally stripped back classically trained pair have an accompanying band this time around giving songs from both their albums a jazzy, mariachi feel. Combining their latino background, and their heavy metal influences, Rodrigo Sanchez teases the crowd with the opening riff from Metallica’s Battery, albeit a version that comes packaged with a little samba influence from the backing band. For anyone who is a fan, this Rodrigo Y Gabriela experience isn’t like any you’ve heard before as the backing band provide that extra kick required to propel the pair into festival notoriety. However, you can’t help but take your eyes off the fingerpicking sorcery that made this latino pair famous in the first place.
You couldn’t have asked for a more perfectly, suited backdrop for Florence + the Machine. The setting glow of the sun behind the green hills and trees only enhance the mysticism of tracks such as What the Water Gave Me and Cosmic Love. A romantic aura fills the air as Florence Welch encourages the crowd to share the love and hug one another, even those who are perfect strangers. Giggling away between songs at the crowd’s reaction, it’s clear that we’ve all been caught under her hypnotic spell. A human sacrifice must be made for Rabbit Heart and Florence commands the crowd to climb on top of each other’s shoulders, chanting “raise it up” in order to appease the spirits. In return, performances of Shake It Out and Spectrum escalate into pure, energetic dance anthems that has the whole crowd following Florence’s lead, dancing as if possessed by the spirits from beyond. For anyone who thought Florence and her machine wouldn’t pull of a festival worthy performance, then this set surely will have changed their mind.
Last but certainly not least,it’s the reunion that most thought would never happen, but after a fifteen year absence, The Stone Roses make their return to Belfast. Despite the solo careers and soap operas between the band mates, the legacy of the Roses has lived on with their fanbase having increased dramatically since their last incarnation. From the opener I Wanna Be Adored, through classics such as Sally Cinnamon and She Bangs the Drums, the crowd sing every word in time with Ian Brown, as they dance, clap and wave their hands around for the entire set. You’d almost think the Stone Roses had never gone away.
As a band who have had their work mixed and remixed time and time again over the years, it’s surprisingly refreshing to hear Fool’s Gold as intended, with John Squire and Mani providing their own extended version for the crowd to dance along to, whilst the blues rock inspired Love Spreads gives Squier the chance to flex his guitar-playing muscles with a few solos that perhaps would have been disallowed back in the early days. Ian Brown’s keeps it cool for the most part with his stage antics, now and again shaking the maracas or a tambourine, making the name Bez but a distant memory in the Stone Roses saga.
There is an overall feeling of solidarity about this Stone Roses performance. There’s always been that connection between Ireland and Manchester, with This is the One dedicated to a particularly famous Belfast footballer who spent much of his career in Manchester. “Stone Roses, built to last. Belfast, built to last” Ian Brown hoarsely states in a matter of fact way, reinforcing that bond. Fans who’ve never met before put arms around each other for the closing track, I Am The Resurrection, singing along word for word whilst Ian Brown acknowledges his fans in the first few rows by rewarding them with trinkets and Roses memorabilia. As the band prepare to depart and take a bow, you can’t help but get little emotional at the sight of the four original Stone Roses members huddling together, proud of their accomplishment this evening and it’s clear that the Stone Roses mantra of One Love hasn’t rang so true for a very long time.