The line-up announcements for Tennent’s Vital are hugely anticipated each year, with Northern Ireland craving big summer shows. This year the draw, alongside a dance night featuring David Guetta, was The Killers with support from Bastille and Go Wolf.
Despite their last album Battle Born heading to number one in the UK chart some were left unimpressed by the announcement, particularly considering it was a band that has played Vital before when their popularity was sky high. With a big crowd on the night however it was doubtful many would leave disappointed.
Vital has in previous years had a number of local acts on the bill but often there is a noticeable gap between the likes of Vital and Belsonic, and local music festivals including Sunflower or Stendhal. This year it is wonderful to see a band from our neck of the woods, Go Wolf given the chance to play to a huge crowd.
Go Wolf have been gathering steam for the past year or two with ‘One More Night’ and new single ‘Talk To You’ bringing them acclaim. Only recently I witnessed the band play to a more familiar crowd at Limavady’s Stendhal. The surely daunting stage and crowd at Boucher playing fields may have thrown some bands off but not Go Wolf. Not usually ones for idle chat, the band playing one of the biggest shows of their career so far seemed composed and confident.
The band’s polished 80s sounds more suited to the early evening sun than at first glance. Surely not too many of the crowd gathered will know Go Wolf too well but the band are given a great reception. The singles are all present; ‘Voices’, ‘One More Night’ and ‘Talk To You’ all sounding as clear as ever but the band save the best for last. The delicious blend of smooth keys and bass on ‘Slow Burn’ are only heightened by the sax solo outro. The band were their usual cool selves and seemed to be right at home on the big stage. Let’s hope more local acts are given such an opportunity.
The next band on the bill would be much more familiar to the largely teenage crowd gathered here. Bastille played Radio One’s Big Weekend on these shores last year and tonight many will have made their way here just to see them. From opener ‘Bad Blood’ onwards front man and founder Dan Smith barely stops pacing and posing around the big stage, or indeed asking how we all are, with the rest of the group taking a backseat. The last time they played in Belfast it was in the Oh Yeah centre; the surroundings this time are certainly a bit different and Smith is keen to soak it up.
Bastille opted for a couple of covers and these get a good reception from the crowd, first TLC’s ‘No Scrubs’ and then ‘Of The Night’, a mash-up of ‘Rhythm is a Dancer’ and ‘The Rhythm of the Night’. Fans of the band may have been enjoying every part of the Londoners’ set but aside from the singles it is underwhelming. ‘Things We Lost In The Fire’ is immediately followed by ‘Oblivion’, a slower piano led track missing the band usual electronic beats, which by Smith’s own admission “may kill the mood”. Smith does manage to cause some excitement by coming off stage behind the pit during ‘Flaws’ and of course ‘Pompeii’ is a definite high point getting a great reaction from the crowd. Large parts of the set drift by with nothing to grasp at.
Tonight’s headliners The Killers are what the night is all about. The band are not at the peak of a few years ago but doubtless as a live act they are not to be missed. Drummer Ronnie heads on stage first with each band member joining him one by one and launching into ‘Somebody Told Me’. Few bands could have such a choice of popular openers. With four albums under their belt the band can pick and choose but most of the singles are brought out. The newer stuff may not be to everyone’s taste but here they are given good reactions; ‘The Way It Was’ is a big heartland rock singalong.
‘Human’ is briefly teased with a short piano rendition before a euphoric performance a few songs later. Much like Bastille’s Smith, Brandon Flowers appears to be enjoying taking it all in. He goes into the old cliché of how much the band loves playing here but backs it up with talk of their trip up the north coast. Further evidence is supplied when the band treat us to a cover of ‘Stroke City’s finest’ ‘Teenage Kicks‘. It’s a great gesture that gets the crowd going, Flowers’ declaring it a hell of a song. Later Flowers and guitarist Dave Keuning perform a short rendition of ‘Brown Eyed Girl‘ with plenty of sha-la-las escaping into the cool evening air. There’s much to coo about and highlights abound; ‘Read My Mind’is spellbinding and ‘All These Things That I’ve Done’ is a chance for the crowd to really sing out. The band don’t wish to keep us waiting and reappear pretty sharply for the three song encore, ‘Shot at the Night’, an explosive version of ‘When We Were Young’ and of course, ‘Mr Brightside’.
It really is a triumphant performance by the band, and as they leave the stage Ronnie hangs back and waits to tell the crowd, ‘tell your friends’. While two nights featuring The Killers and David Guetta is not the best line-up that Vital has boasted, The Killers ensured thousands went home happy.