The Lowly Knights, Rams' Pocket Radio, Farriers, Queer Giraffes
Queer Giraffes kicked off proceedings in the Empire with a nice, if not particularly memorable, set. While they gave a solid performance on the night their alt-folk rock sound was fairly unadventurous and the band did little to keep the audience interested.
The high point of the set had to be Don't Be So Sentimental, a dynamic track that certainly stuck in this reviewer's memory, but the references to General Fiasco were cringeworthy to say the least.
It's almost impossible to say a bad word about Farriers. The harmonies from Stephen Macartney and Rachel Coulter are constantly warm and rich, while their songs are irritatingly memorable.
The Last Long Evening is a gorgeous track which certainly would not be out of place on an Iron & Wine album, while the newer tracks played would be lapped up by fans of Mumford & Sons.
Indeed, the only thing missing from their set was a "yeehaw" and a declaration of a hoedown from the stage. Farriers are one of the best folk bands in the Northern Irish music scene, and it's pretty clear to see why.
There's only one word to describe Rams' Pocket Radio: epic. Peter McCauley, in center stage, appears to thrive on the drama of the music and the reaction of the crowd, while Richard van den Bos appears to be a madman possessed on stage.
Opener, Dieter Rams Has The Pocket Radio, is cinematic and dramatic, rising and falling all over the place. It's hard to tell which direction the band are going to go in next: an uptempo number, followed by a ballad, then a cover of Yeah Yeah, by Bodyrox. Closer, Dogs Run In Packs, is an Elliott Smith-inspired thunderous track with passion constantly bubbling underneath the surface. If the opening band found it difficult to keep the attention of the crowd then Rams' Pocket Radio are masters of keeping a crowd entertained.
The Lowly Knights are a band reborn. Many thought that the loss of the choir would be a killer blow to the group, but it seems they've emerged stronger than ever before.
The new material is still a work in progress: Burning Powder is a cracking song which features a great percussion part (when multiple drummers are involved, it's destined to be great) and The Other Boy is an upbeat infectious number with a ridiculous number of handclaps.
One or two of the new tracks felt like the band were treading water to an extent, but on the whole, it's very promising. Devotion, as ever, got a great reception from the crowd: who needs a choir when the first three rows of the Empire are filling in with the harmonies?
The Knights have been working solidly for the past few months and it appears to have paid off: the harmonies are tighter, the older tracks have been given a new lick of paint and sound as fresh as a summer's night. All in all, a solid performance.
Words: Patrick Kane
Photo: Laura Robinson