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Gig Review...
'You Are' at Mandela
So it's come down to this: through hard graft and rigorous promotion, the 'You Are' travelling circus reaches it's final destination - The Mandela Hall. The crowd is buzzing, and media types are scampering all over the shop. You quickly get the sense that this is a Big Deal.

The opening moments of Pretty Child Backfire's set brim with potential, guitars glowing with a haunting post-punk shimmer, but the band soon opt to go down the familiar indie dirt track. Chants of "PCB!" suggests the audience are wholly enamoured by their performance, but in truth, the local influences on this band are in superfluous supply, and the band inevitably remain an auditory scrapbook of their immediate indie peers.

In contrast however are Colly Strings, who seem to be ready to step out from the indie rock shadow that has loomed over them lately. An enrapturing performance of new track 'Teddy Robinson' gives us a hint as to what makes this band tick: muscular rhythms, strewn with colourful melodies, and stellar vocal acrobatics with just enough gravel to stave off any saccharine emo tendencies.

After experiencing some turbulence recently, Key of Atlas unleash arguably their finest performance to date. The dormant energy from their new material has finally sprung to life, and a powerhouse performance of "Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained" is the perfect example. A subtle yet essential shuffle in the vocal department is proving wonders for the band. Their live show has even taken on an ethereal, psychedelic quality absent from previous performances.

It's amazing to watch Key of Atlas evolve, always expanding and questing for new musical territory, and that alone makes them a crucial component of the Northern Irish music scene. They're transcending the indie moniker, albeit in baby steps, and are homing in on the big leagues.

There's an unmistakable air of sadness as The Good Fight approach the stage for the final time. Each track is played with an added sense of finality, and it's hard not to feel a little choked. 'Donegal' rings with a melancholic nostalgia, heightened by their impending demise and looking back on a six-year career strewn with accolades.

After a highly welcomed encore, rapturous applause echoes through the Mandela Hall as The Good Fight leave the stage one last time. And so ends a band whose humble character was a beacon of admiration amongst bands that revel in on-stage theatricalities. With their head held high, they leave their own unique impression on Northern Irish music.

A Plastic Rose, the very band who helped this evening come to fruition, and they are clearly giddy with excitement, but they have a tough act to follow, and the crowd has strangely shrunk to half it's size.  

The ultra excited Gerry Norman lets his exuberance get the better of him, constantly gesticulating and hollering at the crowd. By this late stage, a large portion of the remaining crowd don't share his enthusiasm, and aside from the dedicated revellers up front, they seem to have just about exhausted themselves�but not for long.

APR soon unleash their trump card in the form of a string section and an impish trumpet player. 'Oceans' gets the orchestral treatment that it truly needs, while overwhelming rendition of 'Sons of Shadow' whips the moribund crowd back into action, and gives us the first 'moment' of 2011.

Each act stepped up to the plate and gave the finest performances of their careers. This evening was a proud manifestation of Northern Ireland's illustrious music scene, a warm embrace for it's bright future, and an open invitation for us all to join the ride.

Chris Johnston

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Gig Details
Venue: Mandela Hall
Location: Belfast
Date: 27/1/2011

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