Tegan and Sara, Ollie Cole
You can tell a lot about an audience by their shoes. It is perhaps an indicator of the newfound mass appeal of Canadian indie-folk duo Tegan and Sara that a relatively large number of females at last night's show attended in high heels, rather than the more commonly associated gig-going footwear.
This new element in their demographic would surely not have been disappointed by Ollie Cole's opening acoustic set. He might have complained that he was outside his comfort zone, performing without his band, yet Cole rose to the occasion admirably.
Indeed, with earnest young singer-songwriters so thin on the ground these days, it has become even more difficult to wring something genuinely affecting from the formula, but in tunes like 'Too Beat', 'We Albitri' and 'Oh My Girl', Cole does just that, showing the keen melodic sense he displayed in his old band Turn has not deserted him.
Nonetheless, it is when you hear the surge of sound that emanates from the crowd when Tegan and Sara take the stage that you realise what is meant by a true cult following. As the band crash into opener 'The Ocean', and on through 'On Directing' and 'The Cure' (all from new album Sainthood), a sea of jagged fringes is set nodding in unison, falling over lips mouthing every word, known by heart.
Indeed, the band themselves seemed taken aback by the levels of devotion on display. Although perhaps in part due to the sharp contrast with the stillness of a Belfast Sunday ("We thought you were all dead!") both the Quinn twins remain perceptibly bemused by the fanatical ardour of those echoing their every word.
Depending on your sensibilities, Tegan and Sara's inter-song banter can come across as either endearing or cringe worthy in the extreme, but what is undeniable is the unique connection it effects between band and audience - a genuine sense of community you experience at very few gigs. And so it is that when the band launch into 'The Con', after one of Tegan's short 'heart-to-hearts', a new surge sweeps through the crowd, lifting the already impressive levels of energy to another level.
From this point on, as they hammer through what must now be termed 'old favourites', like 'Speak Slow', 'Nineteen' and 'Walking With a Ghost', the atmosphere is absolutely electric. It also becomes apparent that - slowly, steadily and unassumingly - the girls have amassed a formidable back catalogue.
As they finish off this amazing gig with encores of 'Back In Your Head' and a cathartic 'Where Did The Good Go', you can't help but think that, should they continue to write the kind of infectious, emotional pop music they have so perfectly refined, there will be more and more high heels at their future shows.
However, it is their devoted, comfortably shod fan-base that makes them the unique proposition they currently are - and who make shows like last night's such an amazing, communal experience.
Words: John Heaney
Photos: Paul McGlade - paulmcglade.tv