A school night in Belfast saw an unlikely band of brothers roll into the city from England, Canada and the US of A. The merch stands were setup and there was a modest crowd initially as always, with gigs kicking off early due to the venue hosting a nightclub after the show.
Through the crowd I see a lonesome figure walking across the stage to the mic grasping an acoustic guitar, an unmistakeable figure of The Homeless Gospel Choir (Derek Zanetti) adorning his unique take on fashion, shit was about to get real.
He introduces himself as “The Homeless Gospel Choir, from Pittsburgh, PA and this is a protest song” which would tend to be the theme for the night. As it turned out it was a Trump infused rant, which won the crowd over immediately. From Trump to ‘God On Our Side’ yet another protest song, to ‘Crazy’ a song about mental illness and ‘Seasonal Depression’ The Homeless Gospel Choir had the crowd hooked! As he wraps up his set with ‘You’re Never Gonna Be Normal’ he steps out from the mic into the crowd and signals for some vocal support and Belfast delivers, walking off stage to rapturous applause he had this crowd eating out of the palm of his hands.
Arkells from Hamilton Ontario were up next. Their first time playing Ireland, they would light up the stage with an electric performance to take this evening to another level. A soulful vibe from their opening number reminiscent of the likes of The Broken Witt Rebels immediately grabbed the attention of the Belfast audience. Melodic song writing and big sing along choruses that make you feel good just envelope the room.
By the second song front man Max Kerman took to the crowd, a high-energy band for sure they are here to make an impression. Chatting to the audience Max mistakenly calls Belfast Dublin, which goes down like a fart in a space suit, but quickly rectifies that by pulling a local up out of the crowd to play a song with the band. Andrew has his five minutes of fame and all is forgiven.
As they kick off ‘Fake Money’ with an acapella opening the singer explains it’s a melody stolen from Frank Turner that Frank Turner stole from the Irish. This takes him back into the crowd and showcases their big, larger than life personality. A fine introduction to Belfast, The Arkells are well worth checking out.
Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls would wrap up proceedings, and with the crowd fully energised by The Arkells set it would be easy for Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls to take this to the finish. Bill Withers ‘Lean On Me’ announced his imminent arrival to the stage, kicking off with ‘Are You Afraid Of The Darkness’ the crowd is bouncing. The lights are going mad as their up-tempo opener reverberates across the room. As it finishes the crowd goes wild and the now packed room makes some noise.
‘1933’ is up next and Frank takes his guitar, and like lemmings what Frank asks for Frank gets, Belfast is at his mercy. “We play music and you go wild right?” the crowd responds in kind. A manic high energy set from this Folk-punk legend see’s The Limelight Belfast erupt to a frenzy as he drags the crowd through his extensive repertoire. A highly charged evening that drew and eclectic crowd out on a school night ends in infatuation and enthusiasm.
A quality night’s entertainment from a passionate collective resonates far and wide and leaves all who witnessed it absconding with baited breath.
Cover Photo : Steven Donnelly