Arthur’s Day Belfast

12 10 2011

Here’s a reprint of my coverage of the Arthur’s Day gig in Belfast that ran in Hot Press.

Arthur’s Day at the Ulster Hall, Belfast

For the last few years the music fans of Belfast have looked across the border every Sep 22 and felt, to borrow a phrase from the modern day prophet that is Amy Childs, well jell at our neighbours in Dublin having a fine old time celebrating Arthur’s Day. Tonight though, the green-eyed monster has been thoroughly slain as we’ve got our own event that boasts a solid line-up which rivals other shin-digs across the rest of Ireland and it all kicks off with bona fide local legends Ash.

Wasting little time breaking out the big guns, they metaphorically hit us between the eyes with their opening sucker punch of ‘Jack Names The Planets’ and ‘Girls From Mars’ and for the next twenty minutes or so, Tim and Co. treat us to an absolute pop punk masterclass. ‘Kung Fu’ leaves us feeling all nostalgic, ‘Oh Yeah’ (which is dedicated to Wheeler’s aunt who’s celebrating her 21st birthday tonight *nudge nudge, wink wink*) is as anthemic as ever and ‘A Life Less Ordinary’ proves that Ash can still set the stage alight after all these years. File under “P” for “Perfect.”

Next up, R ‘n’ B chanteuse Kelis takes to the stage clad in a sparkly outfit that would make the Strictly Come Dancing judges weak at the knees if they saw her. Starting her set with ‘Trick Me,’ she has the crowd in the palm of her hand when she performs a mash-up of Madonna’s ‘Holiday,’ Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ and her own ‘Milkshake,’ and ‘Acapella’ sounds great in the Ulster Hall. Sadly though, it seems that her eagerness to (responsibly) enjoy some Guinness has gotten the better of her as she doesn’t stick around much longer than that, but what we did see was fun while it lasted…

Beatsmith DJ Fresh is on afterwards and unfortunately his backing singers fall foul to some of those pesky sound desk gremlins, but they grin and bear it and manage to turn in a good rendition of ‘Louder’ for the faithful. After that, local lads Cashier No.9 take to the stage and from the opening strains of ‘Goldstar’ it’s apparent that they’re rapidly maturing into one of the best bands the country has to offer right now. There are plenty of highlights in their short set, but oldie ‘When Jackie Shone’ is this reviewer’s pick for song of the night.

A few minutes later, the Enemy march on stage and perform an attitude-filled set which really benefits from a punkier, rawer sound. One of ladrock’s leading lights now that Oasis have snuffed it, the boys sound like world-beaters during the likes of ‘Away From Here,’ ‘Had Enough’ and ‘You’re Not Alone’ and the Jam-esque ‘We’ll Live And Die In These Towns’ sounds tailor-made for the Belfast crowd.

Irish demi-gods Horslips handle headline duties and the reunited Celtic rock innovators do it with aplomb. The Ulster Hall has always been a special venue for the band and it really does feel as if we’re witnessing something truly special tonight. Though they only have time for a few songs from their much storied history, the five-piece are utterly spell-binding and their musicianship is, as expected, first class. ‘Dearg Doom’ is the undisputed highlight but the band’s unplanned, curfew breaking cover of ‘Shakin’ All Cover’ gives it a run for its money.

So, same time next year then?

Edwin McFee