More Than Conquerors return to Belfast’s Limelight for a special one-off
performance. Their first show since breaking up in 2015, both expectations and energies were high for all in attendance.
Scottish indie rock trio Fatherson open the evening with a clattering selection of strong alternative rock songs targeted to the everyman. Traversing themes of nostalgia, self-knowledge and friendship, the band bring with them a song for every occasion.
Frontman Ross Leighton, alongside bassist Marc Strain and drummer Greg
Walkinshaw, shows that Fatherson can excel as performers just as they might in more familiar home territory. Playing off one another with the energy of a much larger band, it is difficult to discern whether Leighton’s immeasurable vocal talent is intended to take priority, or if this is a happy coincidence, as it is the predominant impression they leave in their wake.
Notable tracks among a stellar performance include ‘Open Book’, the title track of their second LP which divides expectations between a poetic
narrative—complemented superbly by the aforementioned vocal emotion—and efficiently-handled swelling instrumentation typical of bands like Tiny Moving Parts or The Boxer Rebellion. Going in blind to such talent of an opening act, we cannot know what to expect and it is a refreshing pleasure to encounter a band who can successfully blend the vocals of a chart artist with the music of indie-folk.
Another breakaway tune, ‘The Rain,’ is taken from their latest album ‘Sum of All Your Parts.’ In a performance of surprises, this track leaves a lasting impression as an emotional ode which highlights the talent of each band member. From the soundscape, it evokes, led not by its travelling vocal hooks but by bass guitar and electronica, this song may feel more at home in a stadium or arena. The dynamic shifts and fluidity of rhythm and genre justify the broad the appeal of Fatherson to a wide range of music lovers.
After ensuring fans are treated to the spectrum of their three albums, Fatherson invite More Than Conquerors’ Kris Platt to the stage for a performance of ‘Charm School,’ a song from their latest album written in collaboration between the two bands. With this surprise guest appearance and the quality of music to which Limelight has suddenly been exposed, Belfast reciprocates in kind with energy and admiration in vast amounts. Fatherson will doubtless return to Kilmarnock with more new fans than they might expect.
At long last, More Than Conquerors grace the stage. But not before Thin Lizzy’s ‘The Boys are Back in Town’ plays in its entirety, a not-so-subtle nod to their situation. As the procession arrives on stage, guitarist-vocalist Kris Platt—followed by guitarist Danny Ball, bassist Danny Morton, and drummer-vocalist Jamie Neish—revive the classic humour and wit for which they are renowned, and it is in this moment of déjà vu that Belfast can once more relive a golden era of its music scene.
It comes as no surprise, then, that Belfast has sorely missed More Than Conquerors. There is an immense show of enthusiasm and restlessness as the band delve straight into ‘Red,’ the lead single from their second album ‘They’ll Make Art from the Things That I’ve Seen’ and a favoured track from their later career. The song is a perfect blend of old and new, just as heavy as it is melodic and choral.
Almost conscious of this, More Than Conquerors treat us to a collection of tracks from their album-length releases, comprising their vast dynamic and generic range. We begin our sonic safari of the band’s debut album ‘Everything I’ve Learnt’ with one of their many breakthrough tracks, ‘Pits of Old.’ Further songs from the album, including ‘When The Well Runs Dry’ and ‘All That We Can’ remind us of how swiftly More Than Conquerors can shift between the jovial and the incredibly dark. It is easy to overlook the impact made by this record upon its release in 2013, and the predictions made about the future of the band on its strength; More Than Conquerors are as strong and impassioned in their performance as they have ever
been, if not more so.
This impression is solidified as More Than Conquerors introduce their latest song ‘NETYME’, in which their growth is evident. Released this November, NETYME is at once nostalgic and modern with a notably irresistible groove and stylish experimentation of genre. Kris Platt and Danny Ball transplant their musical ingenuity developed in their ‘left-field pop’ band Blue Americans, transforming their sound into a quasi-psychedelic experiment that appeases the desire for interesting new material among their persistent followers. Due in part to such an impressive debut performance, a consensus is reached that NETYME is as ‘catchy’ as anything from their established discography.
Massive choruses and empathetic lyrics have always been one of the band’s trademarks, and it was not long before frontman Kris Platt was competing to be heard over his own words, with an untold reverence behind every voice projecting from the audience. Brimming with nostalgia, More Than Conquerors change the pace with a modernised version of ‘Go on Go on Get Out’ from their debut self-titled EP, followed by a reimagined iteration of ‘A Lion, A Man’ from the gritty Boots & Bones EP, a record notorious for its enduring popularity among people from many different spheres of influence.
Fidelity to their origins is particularly welcome on this night, and fans delight at the familiar tones of undistorted guitar from tracks released ten years ago. Peppering such old classics throughout their set, the crowd’s response grows more attentive, and the singing-along continues.
Another selection of energetic tracks from their second album follows, each as evocative and haunting as the last. ‘Elephant Lane’ stands out as a heavy rock masterpiece from the band’s later career, infused with seemingly incompatible lyrical themes from the banality of conversation to the social significance of religious identity in the twenty-first century. Metafictional lyrics, unsettling vocal hooks, and rhythmically challenging guitar riffs accompany poignant writing.
Hearing the full range of their songs for the first time under one roof, we are reminded of why Belfast continues to embrace More Than Conquerors. Their quality of performance have made the band an institution in our city and a permanent fixture in our memory.
As the evening concludes, we are treated to a tongue-in-cheek encore crafted especially to make the audience feel involved in the on-stage camaraderie. Unsurprisingly, More Than Conquerors end the night with an extended performance of ‘Bear Knuckle Fight;’ the surprise comes in the form of a circle-pit, forming expectantly in anticipation of Kris who descends the stage, permitting us to accompany his performative ‘farewell.’
After a shared drum solo between Kris and Jamie, we are bid farewell, left to bask in their mysterious—yet highly welcome—reemergence. Despite their adamance that tonight will be their last hurrah, we could not ask for a more outstanding finale to the indelible lifetime of More Than Conquerors.