When local bands announce a show in the Limelight or similarly sized venue it is normally for a special occasion. On initial inspection an album launch is a special enough but just before this particular show for Axis Of it was revealed that this would be their last show before a long hiatus. No one can blame the band for wanting to take some time out; after all they have toured pretty heavily since their inception.
Opening duties for the occasion were handed to Little Neddy Goes To War, an exciting new alternative band formed from the ashes of Dog Will Hunt. It must be said that it wasn’t a typical performance from the band as they were without lead vocalist, Emma Gallagher of Making Monsters. “Worse for wear” is the term used which is a shame as their hard hitting rock vibes are only amplified by her dynamic stage presence and huge vocal range. Instead we are treated to an imperious instrumental performance, empathetically underpinned by a masterclass from Grace Leacock on the drums. The band is so fresh that their set is filled with the well named likes of‘Song 2’, ‘Song 3’ but we are treated to their first forthcoming single ‘Yeah There Are Snakes’. Spoiler alert – it is fantastic.
Joshua Burnside seemed an odd addition to a bill heavy in rock but the man from Comber rarely disappoints. On another flying visit from Glasgow, Joshua teamed up with brother on drums for a captivating set. It is brimming with new material; there is a thrill in hearing how the new material sounds but frustrating to miss out on classics like ‘Desert Wine’. On electric guitar, there are still plenty of folksy, experimental vibes on offer but similarly immediate enough to keep your attention. Not an easy task in such a large room but the seemingly telepathic relationship between the two brothers makes the performance seem effortless. New offering ‘Only Thing’ is a future treat that should be worth the wait before an enchanting set is capped by the typically endearing ‘Black Dog Sin’.
Axis Of are known for the close relationship they have with their fans and as the lights dimmed ahead of their arrival, it seemed like everyone had piled down in front of the stage. The crunching riffs of ‘Lifehammer’ sets the tone early on with a sea of bodies responding in kind. The mosh that ensues peaks the interest of the bouncers but it is all good natured fun – a theme that continues through the band’s performance. ‘Wetsuit’ is a triumphant celebration of all the band have achieved in their time together and it must be so thrilling for Ewen and Niall to hear the sizeable crowd sing the words right back to them. Fans who have been with them from the beginning were rewarded with a taste of the venue destroying ‘Port Na Spaniagh’ – “My girlfriend is the hardest man in Belfast, she eats iron filings for breakfast” and ‘We Dine on Seeds’.
There are several guest appearances as Team Fresh take to the stage and comment on how much the North Coast trio mean to them and Portrush before joining them for a rendition of ‘Rapper/Comedian’. Similarly the last song before the encore sees an appearance from all the supports, and individual members from the likes of Little Arcadia & Gascan Ruckus. A short encore featuring ‘Marconi’s Place’ and ‘Edge of the Canebreak’ closes off a remarkable chapter for one of Northern Ireland’s most invigorating live bands. Whether they are playing at festivals, intimate venues or huge rooms their dedication to putting on a performance with so much energy is only to be commended. We hope to see our Companions further down the road although hopefully my ears will have stopped ringing by then.