Gifted Live with The Answer - Empire, Belfast
The Gifted Live concept has blossomed over the past few months, playing host to several fairly high profile acts for the enjoyment of both the masses assembled in the Empire Music Hall and those watching online. This instalment was no exception.
David Kitt may be more familiar with the upper reaches of a bill, but his opening performance ensured the night started off on the right foot. ‘Step Outside in the Morning Light' (even 12 years on) retains its youthful naiveté, Kitt plugging away on a battered Fender Jaguar and creating an intimate ambience within minutes. Closer ‘You Know What I Want to Know’ drags a little but on the whole it's a solid performance.
Spare a thought for Cosmo Jarvis. It's hard enough to make a first impression but to only have time for two songs makes the job a hell of a lot harder, and there's just not enough time to differentiate from the hordes of other musicians doing exactly the same thing.
The Riptide Movement have no such problems. While on record they may have their detractors, their throwback folk-tinged blues sound comes alive on stage and the band hold little back. It's ambitious to ask for crowd interaction from the very first track but through sheer stubbornness the band get the audience involved on ‘Shake Shake’ and they simply don't look back from there. Finale ‘Eye of The Storm’ explodes (quite literally) before our eyes, a rollicking rock and roll number complete with multiple drummers and confetti cannons. A+ for fun, but a solid B overall.
Several audience members must have rued the day wireless microphones were invented when BeeMickSee took to the stage. The effervescent frontman (and his partner in crime) roamed the floor of the Empire, delivering the angriest of rhymes with tongues firmly in cheek. Tonight's audience might not have known much about Northern Irish rap music, but it's safe to say their eyes have been opened.
Kopek's debut album has been turning heads on both sides of the Atlantic, and their radio-friendly recipe for rock finds favour with the crowd. With more than a passing nod to rock from yesteryear, the band motor through a set full of big guitars, shrill vocals heaving with emotion and thumping drums. Onlookers murmur with approval and they've made quite an impression with many of the audience - it's safe to say that they've picked up a few new fans from tonight's performance.
Tonight, however, is all about The Answer. Six years since the release of their debut album Rise, the band from County Down have transformed into a lean, mean, riff producing music machine more used to stadiums than the Empire, but frontman Cormac Neeson could probably get a standing ovation from an empty room. However, in some respect he's preaching to the choir. Most fans in the front sections are singing every word, and the temperature of the venue increases significantly as the band crank it up a notch.
Album playthroughs such as tonight's performance force the audience to review the record once again, and its flaws come to light. Rise doesn't have the same strength of material or variety that is found on the band's later releases, and the set does drag a little towards the end. However, the majority of the crowd are enthralled from start to finish and the title track blows any lingering cobwebs away: a slow burning anthem full of panache, capping a wonderful night.