Belsonic 2009 reviews

Check out all our takes on the rip-roaring sets in Belfast's Custom House Square...


Belsonic 09 - Duke Special

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ATL | 23:10 UK time, Saturday, 29 August 2009


Describe in a tweet: Cold crowd, warm performer.

What went down: In the context of Belsonic as a three day event,  'Dukebox' was pretty low key. For a start, when compared to Dizzee and 2manydjs, Saturday night's turn out is distinctly average. And Duke Special's fanbase are notably older. They're also notably polite and pretty sober. Such a novelty, given what we've witnessed at this venue in the previous 24 hours.

However, in the context of... well, what this actual is - a day of mostly Irish performers selected by Belfast boy Peter Wilson - Dukebox is still an absolute treat and a total success.

As for Duke Specials headline set - apart from everything else, it's a pretty precise reminder that with two great records under his belt, Duke Special has more than enough tricks up his sleeve to justify a headline slot at the country's biggest music festival. Opening with the delicate 'Slip of a Girl', performed without a band, is quite brave - but it totally sets the tone. Peter Wilson owns this crowd.


He also has the respect of his peers - Katie Richardson from Katie & The Carnival is the first of a handful of local musicians to wander onstage - helping out with both vocals and dance moves on 'Sweet Sweet Kisses', which now incorporates two huge umbrellas.  'Brixton Leaves' works particularly well in the open air, soaring across the cold night sky - the first of a few epic and memorable moments. 'No Cover Up' is along shortly to remind us that Duke Special is at his best not with the theatrics, but when quiet and reflective.

'The Jockey Club (A B*tch called Wanda)' encourages the kind of vaguely daft ragtime jiving we may require to stay alive during such weather (seriously, it was freezing!!) while the dark, messed up Jazz of 'Nothing Comes Easy' is the highlight of the entire set/day - making great use of both Duke's saxophonist and the invisible keyboardist (you had to be there) at the back of the stage.

The highlight: Apart from 'Nothing Comes Easy', Duke playing 'the hits' at the end and finally riling up a very reserved gathering.

'Freewheel' is performed solo and allowed to breathe, while 'Our Love Goes Deeper' and 'Last night I Nearly Died' force our hero into the crowd and among the people who have put him here.

In short - a triumph. It needed to be.

Belsonic 09 - The Magic Numbers

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ATL | 23:07 UK time, Saturday, 29 August 2009

Describe in a tweet:

We are family, we got all our magic brothers and sisters with us, as we count down to the Duke.


What went down: 

It's a safe and solid set from these GBOL (great bunch of lads) - pleasant guitars with country and gospel tinges.  It's not going to change the face of music, but coming to the end of Belsonic, this is perfect to keep this older, well behaved crowd happy. They'll dance to 'Love Me Like You' and act as a gospel choir to new song 'Hurt So Good'.  It's all a great big happy hug..

The highlight:

It has to be the closing hoedown, starting off slow before going all southern fried county rock in a jam.

Belsonic 09 - Bell X1

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ATL | 22:37 UK time, Saturday, 29 August 2009


Describe in a tweet: Mexican comfort blanket.

What went down: This is just the ticket. Bell X1's music is remarkably warm - as if imported from the Caribbean via Dublin City. And given it's a bit bloomin' freezin' at the moment, we're appreciative of those cosy vibes. The ever charming Paul Noonan also has the most reassuring voice in the world. A total change of pace from the madness of Dizzee and the Daweale brothers but (in our fragile state) a somewhat welcomed one.

The highlight: Being reminded that 'Rocky Took a Lover' and 'Flame' are two of the finest pieces of music written on this island. It's a bitersweet feeling however as both (the latter especially) really should have been massive hits all over the world. What's wrong with people?

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