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The Emerald Armada, Sons of Caliber, Hope and Fair Fellow - The Black Box, Belfast

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ATL | 14:48 UK time, Friday, 15 June 2012


The Emerald Armada, Sons of Caliber, Hope and Fair Fellow
The Black Box, Belfast
Thursday 14th June, 2012

With a double whammy of potential crowd reducers in play, with both torrential rain and a Republic of Ireland match on, you would be forgiven for thinking that there will be a reduced crowd for this evening’s festivities. However, the enthusiasm for The Emerald Armada is so great that The Black Box is completely packed for the duration of the evening’s festivities.

Formed from the ashes of Maguire & I, the first band to take to the stage is husband and wife combo Hope & Fair Fellow. Playing keyboards and guitar, the duo put in a set of rather nice, earthy folk, with some brilliant harmonies throughout.

The charming ‘Grab Your Coat’ is perhaps the highlight of the set. Their performance is somewhat marred by the crowd, whose idle chatter throughout has the tendency to drown the vocals out. 

Up next are the five piece Sons of Caliber, with Andrew Farmer and company playing a storming set of pastoral folk.

They don’t suffer from the problems of the previous band, with the crowd appreciative of them throughout. The highlight of the set is the closing song ‘Yellow Rose’, which utilizes the group’s sumptuous four part harmonies effortlessly.

There is a great rush from the crowd to the front of the stage as The Emerald Armada get ready to play. For a band playing in a genre that is hardly rock & roll (their rhythm guitarist is wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the slogan “I Love Tea”), the rapturous, raucous response from the crowd throughout would seem to suggest otherwise.

The upbeat energy of songs such as ‘I Don’t Mind’ and ‘Strangers’ is thrilling, with the crowd singing along to every word, and in some cases even pre-empting singer Neil Allen. The more laidback songs go down well with the crowd as well. The mellow ‘Country’ is a delightful track, and one that exposes one of the band’s great strengths – their lead guitarist Tony McHugh. McHugh is easily one of most emotive guitar players currently playing in Belfast, and the elation from the crowd at his soaring solo during the song is well deserved, even if he does remain humble about his talent.

The band conclude off the gig with the final track from their new E.P, ‘Everyone’, with the crowd lifting singer Neil Allen off the stage, and carrying him above their heads as if he were king and they his loyal subjects. After such a roaringly successful set, it is easy to see exactly why. As The Emerald Armada leave the stage to a thunderous response, it is clear that this evening surely marks the beginning of an epic rise for the band. Having sold out The Black Box twice in a row now, it can only be a matter of time before they are selling out Belfast’s biggest venues.

Christopher McBride


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