The Empire Music Hall – Belfast. 28/10/2016
ALIEN ANT FARM – Anthology (15th anniversary tour)
The Empire Music Hall is a little gem in the heart of Belfast; looking like something from the dance hall days with its classic fittings, and belonging in the Victorian church era, it’s hard to believe that this venue has only been around since 1987. But if the walls caressed within this beautiful edifice could talk they would unfold many a wonderful and historic memory.
And none more exciting than what happened tonight, Friday 21st October. When a motorcade of megastars hell bent on merrymaking rolled into Belfast to a sold out and bursting at the seams venue. Alien Ant Farm arrived armed and dangerously flanked by (HED) PE, Sumo Cyco and Kaleido to celebrate the 15th anniversary of ‘ANThology’. Tonight was the absolute epitome of what P-A-R-T-Y means, and is my favourite gig of 2016. I have no doubt that a huge impression was left on all the fans no matter which band they were there to see.
Smack bang on time, enter Detroit destroyers Kaleido, pumping an unmistakable electric vibe throughout the venue, as gobsmacked onlookers witnessed what looked like a pink haired wound up doll (Christina Chris), race onto the stage and immediately have the crowd eating from the palms of her hands. The first of the excellently female fronted Rock/punk and funk infused bands was upon us. We were taken prisoner by her energy and enthusiasm. Belting out tracks from their new ep ‘Experience’ such as ‘Unbreakable’, in high octane vocals and gallivanting around the floor after jumping off the stage to yank a still slightly shy crowd to start a mosh pit, however this dramatically changes as the shyness turns quickly to all out mayhem. The solos towards the end of their set were amazing as each took their turn to show off. Cody Morales (Bass) brought soul, Ronnie and Zack (guitars) were precise and energetic, and Joey Fava (Drums) has a serious skin splitting game going on. Belfast loved Kaleido.
The very exciting and totally engaging Canadians Sumo Cyco, with their vibrant image and Skindred/Suicidal Tendencies – influenced rock/dance hall sound – take the stage next. But the stage wasn’t big enough for this experienced and electrifying front woman either. ‘Sever’ aka Skye Sweetnam very quickly decided to get up close and personal with the by now totally astonished Belfast crowd, who looked very much like a bunch of kids who’s Christmas’s had come all at once! With silly grins and wide eyes attached to most of the male part of the audience, they watched as Sever left no corner of the Empire unexplored, as she effortlessly delivered powerful vocals in a variety of clean to screaming and back again from one song and straight into the next.
Everyone joined in their cover of ‘Give it away’ by the RHCP’s, but new single ‘Anti-anthem’ from their up and coming record ‘Opus Mar’ which will be out early 2017, saw Sever on a table in the middle of the venue and joined by mean and moody shredder MD13 (Matt Drake) as he dawned the top of the bar much to the delight of the beer guzzling guys at his feet, leaving Bassist ‘Thor’ (Ken Corke) and touring drummer Matt Trozzi to command the stage with a solid and uncompromising rhythm section.
Sumo Cyco supplied each and every member of the crowd with a hybrid, epic performance. What a spectacle we were beholding and only two bands in. Sever absolutely knows how to perform and capture 100% attention from her audience, and she confidently keeps a firm finger on the pulse of every single person there. Kudos – Sumo Cyco; a show I for one will find hard to forget, and I along with everyone else look forward to seeing them (and Kaleido) back here again.
Next up we are privy to the band that this reviewer was looking forward to seeing the most. (16 years I’ve been waiting!) (HED) PE. A sudden surge forward and a front row clambering crowd raised the roof as ‘Gregzilla’ (guitars), ‘Major Trauma’ (drums) ‘Kid Bass’ (bass) filter out front and centre. I had by now gathered that a lot of the crowd had never heard of (HED) PE, but I guarantee that after their performance tonight they have made a lot of new friends and fans alike in Belfast, which we are hoping will encourage a headliner from the guys the next time.
So when frontman Jahred Gomes appeared on stage wearing his poncho, hat pulled over his face and brandishing a melodica, half of the crowd lost the plot and the other half were trying to work out what was happening, as reggae induced tones filled the air causing quite a stir, before breaking into the full metal assault of ‘Killing Time’ from the highly acclaimed album ‘Broke’ released back in 2000. And we’re off. (Hed) Pe delighted hardened fans and surprized the newbys by ripping through a set that contained a variety of all 10 albums. In a rap tinged rock/metal and reggae mix-up as this very charismatic man fed Belfast hit after hit including ‘Pay Me’, which is heavy and a brutal mix of clean vocals and death growls and is homage paid to ‘Jahred’s hero, Irish UFC fighter Conor McGregor.
So much enthusiasm and genuine love in the room coming from the stage and aimed right back again, the atmosphere in the Empire was of total adulation; add that to a manically rapturous party sensation had by all, double it and you still wouldn’t come close to how bloody good this night was turning out to be. People next to me who hadn’t a clue before-hand what to expect were jumping up and down and shouting – woah I’m so glad I came to this! The look on Jahred’s face said it all really, as he hurtled through his set fist bumping, grabbing frantically waving outstretched hands, holding out the mic as he is joined by the crowd for their biggest hit ‘Bar Tender’ and finishing off by spitting pure venom in ‘Renegade’. The excitement in the room now is almost too much to contain.
Alien Ant Farm
15 years after the release of ‘ANThology’ AAF take to the road with a UK/Ireland tour and Northern Irish fans were beside themselves with joy that they were now finally getting to see their band and celebrate with them. The packed venue now seemed even more packed! The air was saturated in euphoria when Dryden Mitchell took up his post to a rapturous rex sized roar that definitely raised the rafters a few more inches as they broke straight into ‘Courage’ and one great big sing-a-long. But it was the next song and one of their more popular hits ‘Movies’ that just blew the lid clean off.
Fists were in the air and the floor was positively vibrating as they belted furiously through ‘Flesh and Bone, ‘Whisper’ and ‘Summer’. By the time they got to ‘Sticks and Stones’ and ‘Attitude’ AAF had also warmed to the Belfast crowd. As Dryden not wanting to be outdone by the girls of the night also leaped off the stage to share sweat scuffled encounters with his adoring fans disappearing into a thick sea of bodies; while Bassist Timmy Peugh grinning from ear to ear fed the front row selfie seekers without missing a single chug. I don’t want to give the Dick who tried to ruin the night too much air time because he doesn’t deserve it, so suffice to say, Dryden stopped the show, the crowd wanted him kicked out, the Dick apologised and we got on with the rest of a memorable and entertaining night.
Throughout the set a very strong and confident performance from guitarist Terry Corso, who climbed the monitors often with guitar held high to lean over the fans and encourage just a little more noise was exhilarating, and Mike on drums blasted furiously and relentlessly until the guys took their breather backstage before the grand finale.
The encore saw the guys come back on to a rather exhausted and weary sounding “one more tune” from the crowd, that did sound like the walking dead had arrived, I think this must have amused Terry, as he mimicked the dreary words right back at the crowd – this left yours truly in kinks of laughter, thank you Terry!
Drawing the show to a close was ‘Glow’, ‘These Days’ and the tune that I know the whole damn stuffed to capacity building was waiting for, ‘Smooth Criminal’!
Sounding every bit as fresh and perfect as it did 15 years ago much to the delight of every single person there.
Call me bias, call me whatever the hell you like, but even though all four bands played their little hearts out and their little socks off, creating new fans and delivering one helluva party in an epic and utopian fashion, (HED) PE – in this reviewers opinion – stole the show! Jahred is just a natural born entertainer with great songs and a fight for life attitude. It was a warm and family affair shared and loved by everyone there, and if you get a chance you must catch all of these guys in a live show near you. To anyone who was not in the Empire on Friday night? HA! You missed out big time.
Review By Brenda
Photography By Mark Mc Grogan
ALIEN ANT FARM:
FLESH & BONE
STICKS AND STONES
BLACKOUT (ONE LOVE PARTIAL)
MY NAME IS ROCK N’ ROLL
GIVE IT AWAY
LIKE A KILLER
TROUBLE IN PARADISE
R n R