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Mojo Fury, Allie Bradley, Naoimh O'Hagan

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ATL | 13:56 UK time, Wednesday, 15 September 2010

No Alibis Bookstore, Belfast
Monday, 13th September, 2010

"Welcome to the strangest venue in Belfast". Which No Alibis bookstore may well be until someone like The Killers end up playing somewhere like the Crumlin Road Gaol (insert your own joke about bands deserving to be banged up). Here we're not prisoners, although we're as crowded as any correctional facility, squeezed in for an intimate performance. As is acknowledged, a lot of us are here for the headliners, and they've taken the opportunity to expose some other talents to a wider audience.

Naoimh O'Hagan (and not Naoimh and the Hogans as they were wrongly introduced as in London) gets things underway. With herself on guitar, keyboards, double bass and constantly changing percussion, it's not necessarily the traditional view of an acoustic session, and all the better for it. Sceptic is catchy Americana, with a hint of Britpop shuffle, California meets Manchester, but it's not all sweetness. Hiding Something and Hurt No More bring emotion to her voice, underpinned with a strong stomp of defiance. We won't get the name wrong in future.

Allie Bradley is a bit more traditional in set-up, just her and her guitar, but the material is less so, coming across more like stripped interpretations of potential pop gems. One Way and Mistakes could easily be taken into the studio and polished into hits for any identikit girl group, such is their strength. The rough diamond though is Elliot, with an almost Motown soul rhythm hidden in there. I don't know if they exist, but the full studio versions of these could be a real treat.

The acoustic session is indeed a strange beast, a form much abused down the years (particularly post-Nirvana's Unplugged set), often by those claiming it has a superiority to electric sets, but it does offer the chance for the talented to re-interpret material, and to see if a song can stand up without electric jiggery-pokery. MojoFURY open with forthcoming single, The Mann, slowing it down from its slightly frantic usual state, and giving it a southern blues twang, dripping with a backwoods-porch-moonshine-malevolence. What Colour Is The Bear? speeds things up, the stompy goodness, and chka-chka bass rhythms less changed from the original, but still brought down the essence of the song. Sticky Hearts has its delicacy exposed, a trait often easily missed in mojoFURY's work, but here, "without make-up", it's brought to the fore. Closing with What A Secret, it retains its strangeness, the jittery rhythm and chaotic ending as they depart our stages for a couple of months. Hurry back lads.

William Johnston

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