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The Bonnevilles and more - Black Box, Belfast

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ATL | 10:43 UK time, Tuesday, 9 October 2012



The Bonnevilles, The Sabrejets, The Sons Of Robert Mitchum, The Penny Dreadfuls
Black Box, Belfast
Saturday, 6th October 2012

With the night before having played host to the likes of St Vitus Dance and Stop Stop Start Again, the second and final night of this year's The Good, The Mad and The Bad mini-festival brings together some of the very best of our country’s rockabilly and blues-rock acts, all in the relatively intimate setting of Belfast’s Black Box. If ever there was a line-up to rip out the Brylcreem and gingham shirts, this is it.

Admirably battling against a particularly conversational crowd, early acoustic covers comes courtesy of the affable and self-assured Stiff Little Busker. Several stripped-back (albeit impassioned) covers including The Specials' 'Rat Race', 'Gate 49' by Stiff Little Fingers and a medley of ‘The Last Time’ by Rolling Stones and Generation X's ‘Dancing With Myself’ makes for an agreeable and spirited opening, crowd clamour aside.

Harking back to a time long gone, Belfast R’N’B five-piece The Penny Dreadfuls deliver a performance that’s both fervent and emphatic. Overlooking young frontman Ben Harris recurring tuning problems (something easily avoided given preparation), the band’s organ-inflected blues rock, propelled by a vintage, jam-like, markedly soulful approach proves enticing, not least due to Harris practically channelling both Jagger and Jack White throughout.

Following these otherwise lively performances, Belfast/Berlin “neo-Noir” five-piece The Sons of Robert Mitchum wield their brilliantly brooding craft in a slower, more compelling manner. Thanks to the band’s plodding intensity – including upright bass and burrowing trumpet lines – Jack Forgie's angular guitar work and frontman Morgan Moore's sharp, despairing lyrics coalesce to invoke Jacques Brel and Tom Waits on the likes of decidedly dark set closer ‘Build My Gallows High’. Gripping stuff.

Whilst rockabilly is far from everyone’s thing, it’s all but impossible to ignore the fact The Sabrejets are one of the finest exponents of the sound this side of the 50s. Playing for little over half an hour, the Belfast-based Brian Young-fronted quartet unleash an unbridled, incredibly tight set full of country guitar licks and rollicking, breakneck blues. Helped along with rockabilly-doused covers of 'I Fought The Law (And The Law Won) and 'Blitzkrieg Bop', their performance - dedicated to recently departed rockabilly legend Nick Curran - sees much of the crowd up and dancing. With Young on particular form, chewing at the bit and wolf-whistling at every opportunity, we re-discover why the Sabrejets are widely (and rightly) considered to be the best of their kind in the country.

Alas, the main highlight comes courtesy of headliners, Lurgan blues rock duo The Bonnevilles, who assume their positions and unleash their increasingly refined brand of raucous slide-blues and loose, heel-kicked, good time grooves. Despite breaking a string on the very first song, frontman Andrew McGibbon Jnr announces the band’s arrival before the two-piece tear through a set comprised mostly of new material, much of which indicates a marked progression in terms of dynamics. Despite a third of the crowd having departed after The Sabrejets’ extra-punchy set, the Bonnevilles more than justify their repute by delivering a breathless, ultimately stand-out performance.

Brian Coney



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