Review: Tom Robinson Band + The Wood Burning Savages – Belfast Empire 6.12.17

Tom Robinson‘s return to Belfast with the Tom Robinson Band has been long overdue – since 1979 to be precise at the Ulster Hall as part of a Rock Against Racism campaign show. The Radio 6 personality, known for his Desert Island Discs and catchy singles including 2-4-6-8-Motorway, performed the politically driven ‘Power in the Darkness‘ in its entirety as part of a UK tour at the Belfast Empire this week with support from Derry rockers The Wood Burning Savages, columnist and poet Gavin Martin and Andy White.

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The Wood Burning Savages [Photo by Steven Donnelly, 2017]
For those who are conscious of the diverse NI music scene, The Wood Burning Savages are a band who are burning brightly. Fresh off a tour with Fangclub and a number of prestigious bills under their belts (and more to follow in 2018) – the band continue this roller-coaster ride by ending 2017 on a high. Approaching the stage bathed in a dense blue, the band built up the pressure with the opening track ‘Stability‘ before kicking up a racket with the explosively catchy ‘We Love You‘. The band are known on the scene for their furious and choppy rock n’ roll stylings and as politically-aware songsmiths, drawing their intensity from punk rock n’ roll roots.

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Paul Connelly of The Wood Burning Savages [Photo by Steven Donnelly, 2017]
With the highlight of their set being the new single ‘Living Hell’ – the band were functioning at maximum overdrive, tearing through The Empire as a force to be reckoned with. The sound of abrasive feedback generated by Michael Woods was succeeded by a crunchy grooving riff, Elliot Finlay’s pulsating drums and  Daniel Acheson’s fuzzing bass with Paul Connelly’s sharp-to-the-tongue lyricism and trembling vocals that summons Jello-Biafra himself. ‘Living Hell‘ perfectly demonstrated the power of this gang as a live entity. Dropping the guitar for ‘Thoughts of You‘ – Paul dominated the stage with manic movements and aggressive in-your-face approach complementary to bands like MC5 and Against Me! to bring the set to its ultimate conclusion. This was the best set I’ve seen the band perform, tapping into a vein of exuberance which kept on delivering beat after beat, shout after shout, riff after riff.

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Gavin Martin [Photo by Steven Donnelly, 2017]
The band later joined journalist Gavin Martin who took to the stage to perform an extensive poem inspired by his experiences with punk rock scenes, Belfast during the Troubles and exposure to the Sex Pistols – providing reflections of a culture shock that impacted so many young people at the end of the 1970’s. He was soon followed by well-known NI singer-songwriter and poet Andy White who shared a small selection of original material from his extensive discography including the 1985 single ‘Religious Persuasion‘. Armed with a 12 string acoustic, the solo artist delivered an entertaining set of impactful songwriting with thought-provoking lyricism and socially-conscious themes that cross generations – providing a very suitable sonic bridge to Tom Robinson’s headline set.

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Andy White [Photo by Steven Donnelly, 2017]
Following a short intended interval, Tom Robinson (he was also MC’ing the whole show as well as stimulating conversation during changeovers) took to the stage to deliver this evening’s main attraction. Armed with a candy red bass and his band of merry-men – the TRB dove right into ‘Up Against The Wall‘ with its cheerfully upbeat pop hooks, gritty rhythm guitars, Gary Moore-esque soloing, and lyricism attacking the status quo of the day (albeit still relevant!). Performing ‘Power in the Darkness‘ in its entirety this evening, the TRB went from song to song with effortless execution, fantastic sound and demonstrating mastery in their stagecraft – showcasing themselves as an incredibly tight unit.

With songs like ‘Grey Cortina‘, the stabbing rhythms and anthemic raucousness of ‘Ain’t Gonna Take It‘, ‘Long Hot Summer’ evoking sonic sentiments similar to The Sensational Alex Harvey Band, and swaggering set closer ‘Don’t Take No For An Answer‘ – the audience this evening was ravaged by nostalgic powerpop dynamism led by a politically conscious tongue, tipped by a bombardment of infectiously harmonious choruses. Tom was on his toes the entire show, breaking out poses, interacting with each band member continuously amidst the swing and showing ample enthusiasm in his performance, with his renowned radio voice projecting through the PA with stories and tongue-in-cheek reflections in-between bursts of energy.

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Tom Robinson Band [Photo by Steven Donnelly]
Returning to the stage after the traditional walk-off, the Tom Robinson Band came back on for 3 fan-favourites beginning with the most cabaret ‘Martin‘ accompanied by his pianist and a heavy amount of crowd participation (including one punter being told, humorously, to shut up for speaking too much) before easing into gay rights anthem ‘Glad to be Gay‘ that put a smile on many a punter’s faces. Tom and the boys finished on the singalong standard ‘2-4-6-8-Motorway‘ concluding a fantastic night and incredibly zealous set with copious amounts of dancing and clapping in return. Utterly friggin’ phenomenal!

Click on any of the photos below to access the full gallery by Steven Donnelly on the official Treason Flickr now!

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Tom Robinson [Photo by Steven Donnelly, 2017]
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Tom Robinson Band [Photo by Steven Donnelly, 2017]
Photos and review by Steven Donnelly, 2017

REVIEW: Mark Lanegan + Guests – Mandela Hall, Belfast 5th Dec 2017

This week, Belfast welcomed renowned songwriter and frontman Mark Lanegan and the Mark Lanegan Band to the Mandela Hall at Queen’s University. Touring in support of his latest studio effort, Gargoyle, the singer (famous for his roles in The Screaming Trees, Queens of the Stone Age and many other musical projects) and his band visited venues across Ireland and the UK performing a set complimenting his solo back catalogue. He hosted special guests Joe Cardamone’s Holy War and Duke Garwood which made for a very eclectic billing. Steven met all the artists in the photo pit, here’s what he had to say.

Continue reading → REVIEW: Mark Lanegan + Guests – Mandela Hall, Belfast 5th Dec 2017

REVIEW: Rocket From The Crypt & The Schizophonics – Black Box, Belfast 02.12.17

The announcement proclaiming the return of trash rockers Rocket From The Crypt was met with excitement and anticipation. They are a band I’ve wanted to see in the flesh since hearing the crushing aural earworm that is the song most synonymous with the name – ‘On A Rope‘. It’s been 15 years since the Crypt were last in Belfast (with consideration towards their long hiatus to pursue other projects including, ahem, Angels and Airwaves…), performing at the Art College’s Conor Hall in 2002 – a stage graced by many hard-hitting acts back in the day and the site of the infamous theft of Speedo’s stagewear. Thanks to the efforts of Strange Victory, the band came back to perform at The Black Box alongside fellow San Diegan garage trio The Schizophonics.

Continue reading → REVIEW: Rocket From The Crypt & The Schizophonics – Black Box, Belfast 02.12.17

PHOTOS: Pussy Riot ‘Riot Days’ – Mandela Hall, Belfast – 24th Nov 2017

Jamie ‘Camera-Bae’ Hunter stepped into the pit with Russian protest art collective Pussy Riot who performed ‘Riot Days’ (the touring play accompanying the memoirs under the same name published by Maria Alyokhina) with support from Belfast’s Sister Ghost and Dublin’s Bitch Falcon. Reports from the gig illustrated a lot of energy and enthusiasm from all acts, with Pussy Riot dominating the stage with their politically-driven eccentric and manic sounds.

Click on any of the images to view the full gallery on our official Flickr!

Pussy Riot [Photo by Jamie Hunter, 2017]
Bitch Falcon [Photo by Jamie Hunter, 2017]
Sister Ghost [Photo by Jamie Hunter, 2017]

REVIEW: Fangclub + Guests – McHughs, Belfast 27th October 2017

Mr Martin Harris of infamous Downpatrick punk-rock hallions Surf Green was down with the squad at McHughs Bar, Belfast to watch Dublin’s Fang Club rip it up in the basement with The Wood Burning Savages and Thumper. From what we hear on the grapevine, it was a rather sweaty affair! Here are his reflections on the night… Continue reading → REVIEW: Fangclub + Guests – McHughs, Belfast 27th October 2017

REVIEW: Cradle of Filth + Savage Messiah – Limelight, Belfast 30th Oct 2017

Cradle of Filth have always been a band I’ve found quite alluring. Amidst the strong daemonic aesthetic and extreme-metal stylings of their music (a genre, personally, I’ve never been fully engaged with) dwells an essence that pulls me in every time I saw them in books, on websites and in various magazines. Additional to that essence is the personable humour and charisma of frontman Dani Filth which I find very inviting contrasting to the deep aggressiveness that stereotypes their peers. Tonight, I finally make the trek down to Limelight Belfast to see what I’ve been missing out on. The band, who have frequented Belfast venues on previous tours, now return for two Halloween-time shows on the Emerald Isle in support of their recent (to use Dani’s delightful words) ‘musical excretion’ Cryptoriana – The Seductiveness Of Decay.

First up, London-based metal outfit Savage Messiah graced the Limelight stage to a rapidly filling-up venue. Savage Messiah to the unfamiliar punter draw heavily on thrash metal stylings with compliments to Testament, Megadeth and Exodus accentuated throughout their 30-minute set. Whilst in the groove, the 4 piece showed extreme proficiency and confidence on their respective instruments with tight complex grooves, fast screaming solos, spider chords galore and bombarding drum fills that filled the room – with plenty of poses and shaped being thrown in tandem. Observing the crowd, many a foot were tapping and heads were banging along as Savage Messiah ripped through their setlist without hesitation. Treason look forward to their next visit to Belfast, even in one of the more intimate venues to get them up close and personal with the crowd.

Savage Messiah [Photo by Conor Kinahan 2017]
As lights dimmed, an overture of forboding symphony projected from the Limelight’s sound system. One by one, Cradle of Filth marched onto the stage and positioned themselves accordingly, with Dani Filth holding back in anticipation for the right moment. Strutting out in full black regalia with possessed eyes, the frontman and his bandmates stood with their backs to the crowd. To the abrasiveness grindings of ‘Gilded Cunt’, the band swung into action with haste and intensity with its ferocious drumming and gritty riffage. Followed by ‘Beneath the Howling Stars’ and eagle-esque screechings, dedicated fans of the band watched the band kick off tonight with early COF tracks. The two tracks accentuated the band’s dynamism and maturation as songwriters – moving from the all-out aural assault of the former to the more symphonic and swaying interludes of the latter.

Dani Filth [Photo by Conor Kinahan 2017]
If anything, Cradle of Filth were here tonight to be as intense and overwhelming as possible in their performance. With the thrashing frenzying riffage and overturing of ‘Right Wing of the Garden Triptych’ and anthemic proceedings of latest single ‘Heartbreak and Seance’ that showed both guitarists dexterity and harmonisation and the drummer’s fantastic ankle strength [thon boy must need a bucket of ice for those ankles after each show!]. This sonic palette remained consistent throughout tonight’s show overlain with Dani’s infamous growls and grit contrasting pitch-perfect female accompaniment. This was particularly evident especially within ‘Under Huntress Moon’ where it embodied more the character of a theatrical symphony in its live structure, dynamic shifts and vocal swapping.

Tonight’s set consisted of several live debuts and reintroductions of songs buried in the band’s vast live and prolific studio catalogue. Such live debuts included ‘Bathory Aria’ [from 1998’s Cruelty and the Beast], new single ‘You Will Know the Lion by His Claw’ and 2017 album track ‘Achingly Beautiful’. Moreover, ‘A Promise of Fever’ [from 2003’s Damnation and a Day] peaked the excitement of dedicated fans and followers of Filth, which was a highlight of the set for many. If anything, the band must be further commended on their stamina and Dani’s crowd engagement lathered with tongue-in-cheek humour.

Cradle of Filth [Photo by Conor Kinahan 2017]
Closing tonight’s set with fan-favourites ‘Nymphetamine (Fix)’ with its crushing sustaining chords and haunting piano leads [which was very exciting to hear live and sated the inner 13-year-old me who listened frequently in his early musical development] and ‘Her Ghost in the Fog’ which had many a head banging away towards the front. To another overture of classical composition, Cradle of Filth closed their energetic set to applause and screams. A stunning set by a band who show decades of unmatched metal mastery and massive stage presence.

If only they played their cover of ‘Temptation’, alas, for another time…

Click on the photo below to view the full gallery on our official Flickr page:

Cradle of Filth [Photo by Conor Kinahan 2017]

Words: Steven Donnelly
Photos: Conor Kinahan
Big thanks to James Loveday for letting us cover the event!