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Ricky Warwick, Matt Fitzsimons

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ATL | 12:14 UK time, Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Spring & Airbrake, Belfast
Saturday, 2nd October, 2010

Matt Fitzsimons opened to a growing but appreciative crowd, dominated by the mature rocker look. Enough of his own partisans were out to generate an enthusiastic response to the banter and music from the stage. As support Fitzsimons was a perfect complement to the main act- like Warwick, a rock band vocalist who can gig solo. Material from his band Black Freeway was well represented on the set list. He has a strong classic rock voice and nobody who had turned up for the start was left disappointed. Better People and Ride The Freeway got a good response from the crowd before he finished big with a cover of Rocking In The Free World.

The crowd had grown to a decent size for L.A. based Ricky Warwick's celebratory return to Belfast. He's at the end of a solo tour before hooking up as vocalist with Thin Lizzy. This was a big night for him, a homecoming and farewell rolled into one, and it showed. Belfast clearly means a lot to him and he's pumped up to be back.

Songs from earlier albums Tattoos And Alibis and Love Many, Trust Few were well represented in the set, with newer songs from Belfast Confetti mixed through. Warwick opened with Johnny Or Elvis and had the crowd singing part of a chorus by the second song, Can't Wait For Tomorrow. The punters relished the fast paced rock songs and gave respect to the more reflective pace of Belfast Confetti material.

The tone of Belfast Confetti rests on folk and country roots, songs with a strong narrative and delivered with passion. Warwick's Belfast roots and the themes of departure and return create a strong sense of place around Belfast. At times it's like Nebraska-era Springsteen channelling Van Morrison, and that is meant only as a compliment to the quality of the songs.

Warwick engaged the crowd well throughout the show, keeping them on board with the songs and encouraging them to sing. He twice had a go at small knots of background chatterers. The Belfast stuff is important to him, he's singing it at home, and he wants it heard.

Born Fightin' relates the experience of the Ulster Scots in America and Belfast Confetti touches on his past growing up in the city. Towards the end of the night we also get The Arms Of Belfast Town, a song fittingly and triumphantly about coming home. We enter Pogues territory with the new single, The Whisky Song and his version of The Star Of County Down, which are great for getting the crowd singing.

Given the quality of the Belfast Confetti material and that fact that it is an album so strongly linked with a local sense of identity, I would have enjoyed hearing more of the newer songs. Mind you, the crowd just loved to rock.

Warwick's set ran to almost two hours. It's some achievement for a solo performer to hold the crowd for so long, working largely from their own material. And at the end they still, genuinely, wanted more.

This was a bit of a special night with Ricky Warwick connecting with roots, being loved up with Belfast, and thanking the fans who had been with him for years. When he next rolls in to Belfast it will be with the Thin Lizzy behemoth. This is something he clearly relishes. Given his talent as a performer and songwriter in his own right, there is a sense of loss for us in the trade-off.

Bert Scott

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