Arctic Tern with support from Ciara O’Neill
Tuesday 20th May 2014 – Black Box, Belfast
It brings a smile to my face to see Northern Irish musicians setting out on substantial tours; Chris Campbell aka Arctic Tern is one such musician. Smack bang in the middle of a 14 date Irish tour and before six shows in France, is the launch of his brand new EP, Hopeful Heart amongst the cosy confines of the Black Box.
If there is one person that automatically springs to mind after spending some time in Ciara O’Neill’s presence is the platinum selling sensation, Lisa Hannigan. The singer songwriter path is well trodden yet the dark undertones here, linger and add substance when necessary. She quips that in her video for ‘Dead, Black’ she comes off looking like a witch, yet if anything her complex & subtle playing only enchants what has quickly become a deathly silent room. There will be many leaving the venue tonight, anticipating her shortly to be released debut album.
If one could place Arctic Tern in any sort of environment for a gig, the Green Room of the Black Box must surely be near the top of the shortlist. As Justin Vernon bears his soul about lost love in the background, somewhat fittingly Chris takes to the stage. With the ability to transform melancholy into something beautiful and fragile, it’s no surprise that ‘We Couldn’t Have a Home’ has the sold out venue enthralled. Some earnest undertones from the violin on the likes of ‘Love Is Not a Game’ as well as the odd cameo appearance from Ciara O’Neill and a group of other companions help with the ambiance of the show.
It’s not all soft and tender though, ‘ The Break and the Fall’ (conceptually about two acquaintances fighting on ice) proves that there is an anger in there too. The self reflective nature of Chris comes to the fore on ‘Winter Come,’ advising that it’s about shutting yourself away from the world; “something I’m very good at” he adds. Many in tonight’s crowd though would selfishly ask him to do just that if it meant that he spent more time writing music. As the evening draws to a close, the demand for just one more song turns into just that. Ditching his band and guitar for the piano, his encore of ‘In the Cold White’ only adds to the theory that often less is morethe encore is the closing track off the new EP. Some people say that wearing your heart on your sleeve is a bad thing, but it can’t be when it sounds so beautiful.