The Birthday Suit with support from Rory Nellis and Tokyo Empire
Saturday 22nd September 2012 – The Black Box, Belfast
As I settle in for the evening I catch sight of a man hobbling on crutches heading for the stage, that man turned out to be Rory Nellis. Unfortunately for him he has a broken leg and rues the fact that he can’t play standing up but is confined to a chair for this evening’s performance. Rory has a powerful voice and shows off his talents on ‘Storm Coming’. Rory seems a strange choice for a support act tonight considering how The Birthday Suit air towards rock rather than softer acoustic material. Although we want to see more music from Seven Summits (Rory’s normal band) we wouldn’t mind hearing more from Mr Nellis as we move towards the end of the year.
Tokyo Empire are in complete contrast to Mr Nellis as lead singer Chris Sharkey struts on stage wearing a pair of ridiculous looking sunglasses. Just as well then that the band is quite good then! The Strabane boys are quite new but if first impressions are anything to go by we will be seeing much more of them. ‘Say Something’ is a good indication of their style; an upbeat rock orientated track with a sing a long chorus. The guys look like they have been playing together for a long time and while there are occasions when they slow things down on songs like ‘Summertime,’ their music is feel good indie rock. With their songs slowly creeping onto the likes of Radio Ulster and Cool FM, I hope that they can push on and get some more recognition.
When one of my favourite bands, Idlewild announced they were going on hiatus I was devastated and hoped that it would be a short one. Unfortunately two years on and there is no sign of a return. While Roddy Woomble has chosen to bring out several folk records, lead guitarist Rod Jones decided to form tonight’s headline act, the Birthday Suit. With this new band Rod has brought out some trademark guitar riffs that bring back memories of the early incarnations of Idlewild.
Rather disappointingly tonight there are less than 30 people in the Black Box to see the band, especially as Rod recounts how he hates getting up so early and getting the ferry over. Thankfully the band doesn’t seem to be too disappointed and launch into ‘Less Worthless Years,’ but not before we are given a warning about how catchy it is. Indeed I found it hard to prevent a certain foot of mine tapping the floor repeatedly. But it is not long before we get down to the heavier material with their first ever single, ‘Do You Ever.’ It has quite a fuzzy grunge like feel to it and a destructively arrogant guitar riff roaring through it.
We are introduced to the self-proclaimed “very good” ‘Eleventh Hour’ and once again I can’t help but agree. It is one of the standout tracks from the debut album that shares the same name and translates well into their live show. ‘On My Own’ has been referred to by “at least two and a half people as sounding like Placebo” says Rod and he doesn’t give any indication over whether he thinks that is a good or bad thing but one thing is for sure; he and his band know how to write great guitar based songs. Rod keeps apologising and takes flak from the band as he has been told to stop as he does it all the time. In total fairness we hadn’t even noticed that he was making any mistakes but it is clear that they want to get play everything perfectly.
They close the sparsely attended show with ‘Past Passes By’ and a cover of Snap’s ‘Rhythm is a Dancer.’ Quite a surprising choice for a band that generally speaking doesn’t stray too far from the indie rock pathway but apparently tonight is the last time it will be on the set list so it seems not too many more fans will get to hear it (And yes it does work!). A great set that was sadly seen by so few. Thankfully Rod and Jacqui stuck around after the show and have assured me that on their next tour they will come back to Belfast. So folks don’t let me down, get off your sofas and come down and support this fantastic band the next time they make the effort to come to Northern Ireland!