The Tom McShane Band, Mickey Harte, more...
AnaMae and the 442s took to the stage first with a promising set. They are a great looking band with AnaMae looking for all the world like a young Chrissie Hynd (although she may not thank me for saying so!). Good tight rhythm section with lead guitar complementing vocals well. Quite hard to make out what exactly the wee lassie was on about, but the track 'A Little Bit' stuck in the mind and I got the impression that with a bit of production and restrictions lifted from a very talented sticksman, this band could produce something worthwhile.
Next up was Penny Nixon, armed with an acoustic and, it has to be said, a few nerves. Very little banter (is that a good thing?) and quite a few well constructed, well sung tunes saw Penny loosen up towards the end of the set and left on a high with the brilliant 'Little Fish'. Excellent vocal range from start to finish. Well worth checking out in The Bunker, Laverys on the 10th of December.
Brendan Monaghan began his set without his usual fiddle accompliment and I believe suffered for that very reason. The bass player drafted in at short notice did little justice to some beautifully crafted lilting ballads that surely demanded that extra kick up the traditional backside. Lights caused tuning difficulties and I'm sure we all felt for the young man at Brendan's side as he frequently looked uneasy and I'm sure not a smile crossed his lips all night. 'Katie Shines' is Mr Monaghan's latest single and started with a fantastic opening line. Begs just that extra word. Have a listen and I think you'll know what I mean. 'The Road to Ballintra' is also worthy of another listen. Great tune but again if only...
Up next was Ireland's answer to the X-factor winner, Mickey Harte (he's dropped the Joe). With an album in the bag, and tours in the states under his belt, I really tried to like this guy. But I feel he dramatically misread the atmosphere in the Duke. On his opening tune he turned into some sort of Peter Pan type, trying to get a static audience to sing along the sublimly ridiculous lyrics penned for '9 Lives'. 1,2,3,4 knock on my door stuff. The inside of my pint was certainly more interesting until the cringing was over. I mean the guy CAN sing, just needs to find suitable material that can take away the nice guy image. An image he so desperately needs to shed. New balls please.
Headlining tonight's festivities was The Tom McShane Band and rightly so. As the band took to the stage to the strains of The Flaming Lips, the mood inside the Duke lifted considerably. Opening with the ballad 'Don't Call Me' was unorthodox but worked so, so well. Vocally uplifting and accompanied beautifully by new keyboard player Conor Scullion, this tune is crying out for a place on the album currently in the making. Other highlights in the set was the latest single 'The Fall Of Burning Leaves' and the fantastically named 'A Personal Narritive Of Life At Sea', both full of fresh ideas and an intensity deserving of more seasoned artists. Banjo on the latter, by the newly drafted in Ross Neely, is surely a stoke of genius, adding depth and warmth to an already terrific band. Onward and upwards for this lot and I suggest you check them out as soon as humanly possible. Brilliant. Believe the next gig is in The Pavilion Bar, Ormeau Road on December 15th.