Hudson Taylor with support from Southern & Jack Morris
Saturday 21st February 2015 – Mandela Hall, Belfast
The long awaited debut album ‘Singing for Strangers’ from Irish brother duo Hudson Taylor had everyone’s hopes high. Harry and Alfie did not disappoint Mandela Hall on Saturday night on their first headline tour. The high expectations had fans flocking to the venue in the cold to see the heart throbs perform their sold out show.
The night opened with the brothers’ childhood friend and fellow Irishman, Jack Morris. Taking his culture in his stride and armed with a small intimate band he builds a new bridge between modern music and traditional folk songs. This was heard particularly through original songs such as ‘Neon Lights’ as the storytelling element is the basis of his lyrics. The quiet audience was fairly unreceptive to his to his powerful and rustic voice which seemed to prove an acquired taste. Though he did not lack confidence, his repertoire was limited resulting in much of his set being ‘filler’ cover songs. Despite this, his powerful vocals and music showed much promise.
The first sibling duo of the night was the Belfast-born brother and sister, Thom and Lucy, of Southern. They charmed the mellow crowd with their aura of energy combined with cool and alternative rock chords. Despite Thom only being released from hospital the previous day his energy and passion resonated from his gorgeous vocals. Sister Lucy proves to be the goddess of cool and her sultry voice creates a perfect blend with Thom’s. The duo’s fantastic stage presence blew the crowd away in their hit nostalgic blues rock song, ‘Cool Kids’ and the brilliant ‘Where the Wild Things Are’. The pair were not afraid to engage with the audience and made their delight to be performing to a home crowd clear. Performances such as theirs, from a band that seems to have it all, are rare and unmissable. Each gig from Southern is a promise of success as they are on their way to becoming the next ‘Big Thing’ from Belfast.
The seemingly chilled audience certainly changed character as the Hudson Taylor brothers appeared out of the highly dramatic atmospheric gloom. Opening with their recently released single ‘Just A Thought’ was merely a glimpse and promise of the fun to come. The pair engaged well with the audience and Alfie even received a ‘Happy Birthday’ chorus accompanied by a pint of Guinness, to celebrate his 21st birthday. The boys were backed by keys, drums, bass and violin, giving their music a very full, warm and welcoming sound.
The night fluctuated between stripped back acoustic pieces and high-energy songs such as ‘Chasing Rubies’ and ‘Weapons’, that had the crowd singing at the top of their lungs. The audience was treated to Harry playing piano for several numbers which further highlighted the duo’s musical abilities. Most impressive, however, was their completely unplugged goose-bump inducing rendition of ‘Arrive’ which displayed their musical control and skill, as well as showcasing their perfect vocal blend of melodies and harmonies. It was also a demonstration of complete confidence in each other whilst being an ode to their busking days at the beginning of their career.
Touchingly, the Hudson Taylor brothers dedicated their song ‘Called On’ to their mother in thanks of all of her support. The boys continued to woo the crowd with an energetic cover of ‘Back In Black’ followed by their song ‘Care’ before attempting to close the night. However, a prompt call for an encore encouraged them back onto the stage to perform a brand new song with the opening support and their long-time friend Jack Morris. Teaching the crowd the lyrics to ‘I Don’t Know Why’ before performing it maintained the buzz of the night and the communal singalong share of music. Predictably so, Hudson Taylor ended the night with their most popular song ‘Battles’. Their tremendous performance to the sold out crowd at Mandela hall proved once again that they possess their own brand of folk fuelled by a pure love of music and limitless potential.
Review by Freyja Bourke