To say I was out of my comfort zone attending this gig is an understatement; as an avid fan of thrash metal, black metal, and all things extreme, a “tame” environment such as this definitely threw me off. This was my first time experiencing the privileges of the envied golden AAA wristband, and with Conor as my guide, I was ready for whatever the new world of music journalism would throw at me.
About half an hour before the gig, Conor had given me an idea of what we’d be doing – we would first interview R51, get some photos, then review/photograph them when they played. I’d heard of R51 before, but I knew little more than they played Reading Festival in 2015, and they were pretty good from what I had heard.
We sat and had a chat with singer Jonny and a couple of others from the band – Conor asked a few questions about their releases and future plans, and shared a few stories with fellow Downpatrick lad Matt (although I admit I don’t think any of us understood the inside jokes). Overall my first impression of the band was an excellent one. They were approachable, friendly and down-to-earth, and I was looking forward to hearing their sound.
R51 went above and beyond my expectations. Their friendly personalities resonated on stage. I believe crowd interaction is key, and no one likes a cocky band. The way they addressed the audience and their introductions to each song were relatable and helped me understand not only their lyrical content but their style and sound as a whole, which to my surprise I found very enjoyable.
When we chatted before, Jonny mentioned a few times how loud they were, and he wasn’t wrong. Their sound filled the room with the perfect mix of ‘pretty’ verses and epic choruses. Each member had a distinct role in making up their sound with no one particularly pushed into the background, as I’ve noticed before in a fair chunk of any alternative acts I know of. Having two vocalists worked well, the guitars and bass were tight and I was particularly impressed with the drums – as a drummer myself I love to see a massive amount of energy, which I did, and it was impressive to watch.
While it may not be my usual cup of tea, R51 exceeded my expectations in many ways. I definitely look forward to catching them again.
Review by Lauren McGowan
Photos By Conor Kinahan