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Belfast Rocks at The Ulster Hall

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ATL | 17:12 UK time, Monday, 7 November 2011

The Answer, Therapy? and LaFaro
Belfast Rocks, The Ulster Hall
Friday 4th November, 2011



Belfast Music Week has been cramming so much in we're not getting used to the super punctual gig starts. Doors open at the Ulster Hall at 7pm on the dot and LaFaro are pretty much thrown onstage at half past, exactly the time they're supposed to start - prompting those still loitering at the bar on their way in to run towards the noise. And what a glorious noise it is.

Jonny Black snarls at the crowd like he's just found out it's stolen his beloved VW golf! The stage looks like it's set for an eighties metal video with amps stacked high and guitars a plenty and they really have turned it up to 11 tonight.

Tracks from new album Easy Meat fit perfectly between the tracks we know and love like 'The Ballad of Burnt Dave' and of course 'Tuppeny Nudger'. We get a laugh from their set list which has a note saying "talk to crowd politely". They do of course talk to the crowd but in true LaFaro banter style – it is not very polite so we'll just say it was a nod to Derry spides and leave the rest to your imagination if you weren't there to hear it.

We have just enough time for our ears to stop ringing before Therapy? appear to punish our ear drums a little more. Dressed for the occasion, in black shirts and suits they look very much the part on the grand Ulster Hall stage.

With 20 years of rocking out under their belt they have a plethora of great tunes to choose from and tonight's set covers the entire span of their career. They may have been doing it for 20 years but they sound just as fresh as when they first started.

Evil priest Michael introduces the Derby Demon Neil who we can't really see hiding behind a massive drum kit but we know he is there from the sheer thrashing it's getting.

Therapy? are blessed with the classic dark sense of humour only us norn iron folk can do and as usual the set is littered with wise cracks. 'Die Laughing' is dedicated to Phil Lynott, Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse and most currently Jimmy Saville. Andy jokes about the last time he played the Ulster Hall (the glorious event that was Do You Remember The First Time?) and getting told off for swearing, so he makes the crowd sing the "naughty bits" for Potato Junkie. Radio edit onstage it may be but the crowd are certainly making up for it and when he asks them to shout the dirtiest word they can think of we nearly die laughing when one particularly enthusiastic rocker screams "Carrickfergus" at the top of his lungs!

The crowd seems to thin a bit after Therapy? which is a real shame as The Answer, though totally different on the ears, are on fine form this evening.

Vocalist Cormac Neeson leaps about the stage loudly proclaiming their business here today is Rock n Roll. At several points we start to wonder if he may actually be able to possess the crowd when random rockers become a little too infused with the spirit of rock n roll, or possibly whiskey, and little pits of what could be best called experimental dance appear. One fan is actually removed from the balcony for his own safety by a highly amused security guard after his flailing nearly prompted a dive towards the crowd below.

In The Answer we have another band who know how to take a joke and Cormac gets the whole crowd chanting 'Hey Paul' at the guitarist. They throw in a Rose Tattoo cover for good measure 'Rock N Roll Outlaw' and it’s heavy blues undertones blend perfectly with their usual sound, completely making it their own. 'Preachin' is laced with slide guitar and thumping drums and Cormac finishes climbing up the steps of the famous Ulster Hall organ.

The undeniable highlight of the evening has to be when Therapy?'s Mike and Andy come back onstage to join The Answer in a roaring version of the NI music scene's national anthem "Alternative Ulster". We've heard the song before this week, even by it’s original creators Stiff Little Fingers but it NEVER gets old and this version has the added bonus of a backing chorus from the entire crowd. There is one more track from the Answer after this, but 'Wasted Tears' feels a little tired after the sheer energy of the penultimate tune.

We've seen three very different bands tonight - The Answer with their blues infused preaching of rock n roll, Therapy? keeping punk rock alive and having a great time doing it and LaFaro leading the charge of the newer bands. All three bands have an incredible, sometimes self depreciating and often near the knuckle sense of humour, which means the bits between their songs are often as enjoyable as the music.

We leave tonight still chuckling about some of the onstage one-liners. The ringing in our ears doesn't stop us from driving home with more Therapy? blasting on the car stereo. Well they didn't play "Church of Noise" and we're dying to hear it!

Carrie Davenport


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