Belsonic 2011


Belsonic 2011 - The Specials

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ATL | 16:32 UK time, Monday, 29 August 2011

The Specials
supported by Pocket Billiards and Hanni El-Khatib
Saturday the 27th of August

Describe in a tweet: Coventry Two-Tone legends make triumphant Belfast return. Or Shane Meadows begins shooting This Is England 2011. It's hard to say, really ...

What happened: After a hugely successful fortnight of diverse and delectable live music, 2011's Belsonic concludes this evening in typically memorable fashion. Two years since they played St. George's Market on their long-awaited comeback tour, Ska godfathers The Specials emerge to rapturous applause via a lethal one-two dose of 'Do The Dog' and the effortlessly anthemic classic 'Dawning Of A New Era'. Already it's something of a riot: whether it suits their job description or otherwise, virtually everyone is doing "the" Ska dance, vocalists' Terry Hall and Neville Staple's lyrics are passionately rebounded and the atmosphere is truly second-to-none. Trawling through a finely-tuned, practically faultless set of their greatest material, Hall & Co. are at their most commanding on the hectic 'Monkey Man', 'Nite Klub' and the awe-inspiring "moment" that transpires amidst anti-racist singalong, 'Doesn't Make It Alright'.

Not only have these anthems retained their acutely insightful social value for which The Specials are widely recognised for, they somehow seem slightly more prophetic tonight than ever before, i.e. 'Friday Night, Saturday Morning' resonates deeply with today's endemic binge culture, whereas 'Concrete Jungle' calls to mind the recent rioting across the UK. Throw in the thoroughly hectic 'Little Bitch', feel-good highlight 'Enjoy Yourself' and ode to misspent youth par excellence 'Stereotype' and Belsonic may have just witnessed its finest performance to date. In the end, with a hairs-on-the-back-of-the-neck encore of the inimitable 'Ghost Town' and 'You're Wondering Now', it's clear both The Specials and the thousands in their wake are overjoyed by what's just went down.

Enjoy Yourself: Not a single lull, dud or misplaced moment in an unbeatable set of seventeen classic songs. Also, witnessing the innumerable old school fans reuniting for what is surely the Ska equivalent of the Second Coming.

You're Wondering Now: The noted absence of chief songwriter Jerry Dammers remains a mild distraction to the glory. But as I say ... the Ska equivalent of the Second Coming.

Rating: 9/10

Belsonic 2011 - Hanni El-Khatib

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ATL | 16:22 UK time, Monday, 29 August 2011

Hanni El-Khatib
supporting The Specials
Sunday the 28th of August 2011

 Describe in a tweet: LA-based doowop/blues singer-songwriter lacks substance and songs to sustain Billiards' momentum.

What happened: With anticipation very much in the air for The Specials later, LA bluesman Hanni El-Khatib takes to the stage, meekly declaring "we're going to play some songs". Well, you would kind of hope so, wouldn't you? Sadly, though, wielding a delectable, baby-blue Fender Jagstang and shadowed by a faceless "snare-cymbal" sort of drummer, El-Khatib lethargically works his way through songs from his otherwise impressive 2011 debut album, Will The Guns Come Out - and it would seem the crowd are still very much stung by the Pocket Billiards' uptempo knack to cede to the hooklessness of his sluggish and suddenly formless blues.

That said, it's undeniable El-Khatib possesses some real songwriter prowess. With its consistent, hip-relenting beat, the likes of 'Build. Destroy. Rebuild.' prove just that, whilst his slower, more doowop orientated ventures gain the approval of the crowd much more than his stuttering, start/stop blues. In all, despite his obvious skillz to pay the billz, El-Khatib receives little more than pin-drop applause throughout the entirety of his set, indicating that not only should he have probably performed first, if he did there would have been a priceless opportunity to make a few new fans. Alas, it's a groggy set punctuated with defeatist reminders that the Specials await and a frustrating case of waiting for a riff that never quite comes.

Enjoy Yourself: Some moments suggest The Black Keys on diazepam. But I'm still not sure if that's a good thing.

You're Wondering Now: The transition from the Pocket Billiards' joyous onslaught to El-Khatib's plodding dirges proves more than a little frustrating.

Rating: 5/10

Belsonic 2011 - Pocket Billiards

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ATL | 16:08 UK time, Monday, 29 August 2011

Pocket Billiards
supporting The Specials and Hanni El-Khatib
Sunday 27th of August 2011

Describe in a tweet: Belfast ska-punk legends get final night of Belsonic 2011 off to a blinder.

What happened: The bill they were pretty much born to play, Belfast ska-punk nonet (ahem, nine-piece) Pocket Billiards launch the ninth and final night of Belsonic 2011 in typically riotous fashion. Starting as they well and truly mean to go on, opener 'Drunken Waster' automatically induces a large section of tonight's still-assembling crowd to carefree gyrating and toothy chants of "gonna get drunk! gonna get drunk!" whilst a grizzly new song and the deliriously anthemic 'Dirty Money' only serve to confirm a tingly, thoroughly contagious sense of occasion.

With their horn-led, good-time overtures to proper living, Pocket Billiards are on top form throughout - the sound is first-rate, every last member of the band pour their heart and soul into the performance and - a real testament to their playing venues across the country for many years - the adoring reception they receive before, during and after each song indicates serious respect. Another new song eye-winkingly alludes to a refrain from 'Ghost Town', whilst 'Tetrasaurus Rex' and closer 'Belfast Town', prompt massive cheers from the band's Belfast faithful, standing as highlights in a mostly-jaunty, occasionally-heavy, totally-convincing set.

Enjoy Yourself: An arse-shakingly, finger-waggingly, trilby-tippingly terrific start to the final night of Belsonic 2011.

You're Wondering Now: Practically nothing goes against the band. Sure, it threatened a downpour for a while but let's just leave that end of it to Zeus, shall we?

Rating: 8/10

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