Key Of Atlas, Kasper Rosa, Colly Strings
The bouncers have a cruel task ahead: keeping the punters impatiently queuing in the bitter November elements for twenty minutes longer than we should have been, the prospect of a quilt and a takeaway is becoming all the more alluring.
Bangor four-piece Colly Strings are in charge of taking the chill off the evening, and they do a fine job. The pulsating bass on ï¿½To The Water' is painted with colourful glittering guitar work, while ï¿½Built To Break' makes some movement in the noticeably rigid audience. My main qualm with the group is their obvious musical stance: angular guitar, chant-a-long choruses, shouted backing vocalsï¿½it's just all too familiar. The stage presence of specific group members also needs working on - on one side there's a guitarist who's stiff as a board, while on the other the bassist is in the process of being exorcised. They could both take a lesson from the collected and engaging front man.
It all goes rather Dystopian when Kasper Rosa begins. ï¿½Team Building Exercise' hits the audience like an atomic bomb, and it seems like the instrumental 4-piece are about to set a rather high benchmark. Sadly, as the set goes on, the fickle crowd descend into conversation, while the band is reduced to no more than a post-apocalyptic lounge act, with not even ï¿½Scaling Mount Improbable' granted any enthusiasm. This crowd want their chants and their singalongs but Kasper Rosa's energy is best experienced when you're gasping for air in a packed out room rather than somewhere half full.
Now we're ready for Key of Atlas, who are promoting the release of their long anticipated debut EP, ï¿½Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained', and the more appreciative members of the crowd squeeze to the front. As part of the celebration, the band makes a bizarre move in an attempt to build the tension, and uleash projectors to reveal a rather crude countdown clock. The 180 seconds eventually whittle away, and the band at last makes an appearance. Then sounds the worryingly atonal pitch-bend from the guitars, an uncharacteristically thunderous riff, accompanied with strobe lights, before receding into calmer musical territory, where they normally remain. Props to the guys for trying, but it's poorly executed, and one of the more jarring introductions to a set this reviewer has witnessed for some time.
When they get underway, it's clear that the two vocalists have made vast improvements in their singing, while drumming maestro Connor Burnside proves, yet again, that he is one of the most promising percussive stars in Northern Irish music. Nevertheless, a significant part of the set lacks the electrifying energy present in their classic tracks. It's not until the band tear into ï¿½The Catalyst' where their set really begins to gain momentum, and it's difficult to not be bowled over by a mammoth delivery of melancholic epic ï¿½Calyx Eagle'.
ï¿½Someone Help Me' and closing number ï¿½Pure Black Spectrum' both garner healthy responses, and rightly so, when delivered at such an urgent pace.
While they earned huge praise from their loyal following, the cards didn't seem to be dealt in Atlas' favour tonight. It seems, for the meantime, the band's live merits are predominantly noticed when playing their older material.