The Emerald Armada with support from DANI and Hurdles
Thursday 5th June 2014 – Limelight 2, Belfast
The Emerald Armada are growing up; this past EP cycle saw a new little one added to the Armada family and musically the band are now embarking on bigger tours (they have just returned from shows in Scotland), playing to bigger audiences on bigger stages. Tonight’s performance in the packed out Limelight 2 is a prime example of that.
First on the line-up for tonight is DANI, who is relatively new onto my radar despite hearing her through our Kickstart competition. Accompanied by a banjo/ double bass player, tonight the crowd warm to her folk and blues style. Her set was made up of a mixture of instrumentals and vocal performances providing a lovely contrast on the night. As I listened I was amazed as she effortlessly seemed to jump between tempos and time signatures, with the guitar style that resembles the likes of Thomas Leeb, Andy McKee and Newton Faulkner. This style I believe brings something fresh and new to the Northern Irish folk music scene and I look forward to hearing more of her (perhaps in a quieter venue maybe) very soon!
Second band tonight, Hurdles are not what you would expect on a line-up headlined by The Emerald Armada, however they provided a lovely contrast from Dani and the Armada’s folkier stylings. Beginning their set with EP opener ‘Where to Start’ the crowd were immediately involved in their guitar driven pop rock feel. I found myself focusing on different parts during the set and couldn’t help but notice the intricacies that each part brings to the beautiful whole, end product. The band are 1 of 5 accepted into this year’s Scratch My Progress program run by the Oh Yeah Music Centre. Having seen the impact that this program has had on the likes of Hannah McPhillimy and Go Wolf, among many others, it will be exciting to see how Hurdles develop in the next 12 months.
Finally it is time for the Emerald Armada’s performance. As I see the Limelight 2 sold out, I cannot help but feel sentimental over how far these boys have come. Young and old, near and far have flocked to this show, just demonstrating the pull of one of the biggest bands in NI’s music scene. As the 5 make their way to stage there is a massive roar from the crowd, First song ‘Glasses Raised’, closer on the new EP, prompts a wealth of glasses to be thrust into the air. During the set new Ep tracks ‘Old Tree Top’, ‘Brothers’ and ‘To the City’ make lovely additions to an already booming catalogue of Armada tunes. Despite the acceptance and love for the new songs, which will in time become classics for them, it is old fan favourites like ‘Be Loved’, ‘Sons of’, ‘Now Go’, ‘Make it Good’ and ‘Strangers’ that have the crowd in full voice. The band’s energetic live performance clearly rubs off onto the audience who jump, mosh and sing the lyrics back to the band. Between gorgeous 4 part harmonies making the hairs on your neck stand on end, the beautiful guitar solos of Tony McHugh and the always amazing Bodhran solos of Dermot Moynagh, I am left speechless. You would be hard pushed to find a favourite moment from tonight’s show. However it ended in perfect Armada style with an encore of ‘Everyone’ causing an almost deafening chorus of “I’ll bring everyone round here”. Neil Allen steps to the microphone thanking the fans saying “This was beyond any of our expectations”, and deservedly so.
In August 2013 I saw the Emerald Armada headline Forfey festival. I came away believing firmly that it was their best performance and although they are a great band it couldn’t possibly get any better. However tonight as I walk out of the doors of the Limelight I am struck once again. I have however learned my lesson from August however, and now do not doubt the Armada’s potential to keep improving and growing. They are a band who are becoming something very special, it is a joy to sit back and watch.