ASIWYFA, LaFaro, A Plastic Rose
Ok, its so close to Christmas that turkeys are besieging the airports and the sprouts have already gone on, and what this means is that everyone goes home and there's no tours on, which means its crap for gigs, right? Wrong - all it means is that the focus is sharpened even more on the multitude of excellent bands knocking about Belfast these days.
Beginning the evening are A Plastic Rose who open with 'Flicker', a song of quiet subtle power. Until the last verse, when they let it all go, into the sort of song that the big arenas were made for. 'Colour Blue' just needs the right glossy video to hit all the demographics, with emotion, rock, tenderness and beauty all wrapped up as a little present for Christmas. But there's a bow to go on top, as they close with 'Sons Of Shadow', an even more beautiful piece of shimmering guitars, epic emotion and gentle strength, dedicated tonight to General Fiasco, one of the many bands they name check, presumably having forgotten to send out Christmas cards.
From quiet power to full-on ass-kicking primal rock, here come Lafaro, who've checked the list twice and decided we all deserve a beating. Beginning with a suitably disturbed oldie 'Scott', they then give us a newbie (yea!), sounding like the offspring of their own 'Cold Dog Soup' and 'Leningrad' - a suicidal storm trooper leaving a path of destruction. It's the less frantic than normal treatment of some of the material - notably 'All of These Things' - that impresses most, showing off their penchant for experimentation and confidence in the ability of the songs to hold people while they grow before them. In this spirit 'Tuppenny Nudger' doesn't try too hard, because it doesn't have to - it's just class and everyone knows this. They wrap up with 'Great Conversations Remembered No 36', the depraved and disturbing bit at the end leaving us as they would want - slightly confused and possibly scared. In a good way
And so to ASIWYFA. They'll eventually be dragged back for more in an over-running set when it's already over half an hour after the advertised set-time - says it all. 'The Machine' soars, roars, rocks, rolls, and does everything you want, while they dedicate 'A Little Solidarity Goes A Long Way' to Lafaro. 'Tip Of The Hat, Punch In The Face' is from the forthcoming new album and has a jaunty Latin/Caribbean feel before the hurricane comes rushing in. Dragged back for 'Clench Fist, Grit Teeth, Go!' as an encore, they overcome the technical difficulties and administer another mule-kicking. Once again - in a good way.