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A Rock Night to Remember - Belfast

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ATL | 18:59 UK time, Monday, 26 September 2011

Pat McManus Band, Sweet Savage, Million Dollar Reload, Stevie K Band

Spring and Airbrake, Belfast
24th September, 2011

 

Some people say rock ‘n’ roll is long dead and has little to no relevance in today’s music business. Others reckon that’s a load of nonsense as it’s simply a matter of taste and preference. Either way, whether you think the golden age of Irish hard rock died with Phil Lynott twenty-five years ago or continues unabated to this very day, tonight’s show in memory and – most importantly - tribute to Trevor Fleming of Belfast-based metallers, Sweet Savage and Tommy McManus of Mama’s Boys looks set to support the second point of view. The question is: will this so-called ‘A Rock Night to Remember’ live long in the memory?

As expected, by the time the Stevie K Band make their way onto stage, Spring and Airbrake is already buzzing with diehard rockers and curious music lovers, both young and old. With more than 30 years in the business, Stevie K and his band make a practically flawless start to proceedings with a snappy set of fist-clenched anthems such as ‘Last Time’, ‘There Is A Reason’ and crowd favourite/set closer ‘Goodbye Sinners, Goodbye Saints’. Whether or not you go for their refined brand of commercial rock, for a band so completely passionate, seasoned and well-versed in feel-good rock ‘n’ roll, it’s practically impossible not to enjoy their approach.

Next up is Million Dollar Reload, easily one of the most exciting hard rock bands around at the moment. Encouraging tonight’s eager crowd to come closer to the stage, Phil Conalane and Co. launch straight into a one-two punch of ‘Bullets in the Sky’ and gutsy singalong ‘Tattoos and Dirty Girls’, immediately justifying the buzz surrounding the band at the moment.

Sleazy riffage, absolutely belting vocals and one hell of a rhythm section, for a band that titled their debut record Anthems for a Generation, their new material (i.e ‘I Am The Rapture’) proves even more riotous. All of which can only lead to one conclusion: Million Dollar Reload are the sound of Irish rock ‘n’ roll in 2011.

Formed in 1979 and considered one of the key players in the New Wave of British Heavy metal, Sweet Savage take things up a notch or ten with their uniquely pummelling proto-thrash riffage. Since their reunion in 2008 following the passing of founding guitarist Trevor Fleming, the likes of ‘Take No Prisoners’ (w/ original drummer Davey Bates) and ‘Regenerator’ sees a host of guest appearances, one of the most charismatic frontmen you’ll ever witness in Ray Haller and a whole era’s worth of brutal and fully involved hard rock/metal that sees most of the crowd get involved.

But saving the best to last, Pat McManus, ex-Mama’s Boys and his band emerge to provide a memorable fitting end to a thoroughly enjoyable night. With giddy rumours making the rounds of a much-awaited appearance by John McManus (bassist/vox with original Mama’s Boys) the virtuoso guitar-playing of his brother Pat on ‘Runaway Dreams’, ‘Gentlemen Rogues’ and ‘Straight Forward’ verge on the impossible.

Trawling through a rapturous set featuring no less than five Mama’s Boys songs, the crowd’s hopes are more than met when John eventually emerges during ‘Belfast City Blues’. It’s an extraordinary moment and is only made better when ‘Needle In The Groove’ (Steve Strange on drums) and closing jam of Slade’s ‘Mama Weer All Crazee Now’ conclude what can only be described as a thoroughly blood, sweat and tears set. At the end up: four magnificent performances, a whole host of guest appearances and all the proceeds go to charity. It was indeed a rock night to remember.

Brian Coney
Photo: Colin McCann

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