Ash return to Belfast following the release of their highly anticipated album Islands earlier this year, accompanying them are local heroes Brand New Friend with the Belfast crowd in festive form.
The room is buzzing as Brand New Friend take to the stage, a quirky looking quartet with front man Taylor Johnson looking like a million dollars in his nice shiny tracksuit top, adorning a pink Stratocaster he slams his way into a feisty and energetic set that gets the room bouncing. Joined by his rather cute sister Lauren Johnson on keyboard sharing the vocals, Brand New Friend romp their way through a highly addictive and foot stomping set that you cant but help warm too. Lauren takes lead vocals and adds an additional edge to their performance whilst the guys behind them put on a more than solid performance that gains the attention of all in the room. Taylor is a likeable character and interacts with the crowd well as he bounces off friends in the room shouting abuse, but it’s all in good fun and with the festive season upon us their short and high impact set comes to an end.
With an early kick off, the Northern Irish Trio hit the stage with a steady and rocking number in ‘True Story’, which ignites the room once again. The uptempo and slamming ‘Kung Fu’ really gets the room going as the lads get into their stride. The light show kicks of in earnest and the hometown crowd gets going.
It’s a packed house, and tonight see’s the lads celebrate their last show of 2018 at home with friends signing off another successful year for Ash. Coming up now on three decades together, this trio has done it all, bought the t-shirt and more. But there is something about returning home to a packed out gig in front of your loyal, life-long fan base that were there at the very start, and are still here now. Ash rose from the local scene back in the day when the likes of Therapy graced the local stages and Belfast was rich in young talent, it still is today but the scene has shifted somewhat. Rock / Metal is the new norm, a hefty and heavy scene is present in Northern Ireland now with an embarrassment of riches, but thankfully the talent is far broader ranging, across the genres but none the less these lads tonight are a testimony to just how far a small band from “Norn Iron” can go.
They play and hefty and full set covering their 26 years together but as always the big hitters get the loudest cheers, ‘Oh Yeah’, ‘A Life Less Ordinary’, ‘Shining Star’, ‘Girl From Mars’ and ‘Burn Baby Burn’ to name but a few. The dedicated few that knows the band inside out rock out to all the classic’s both new and old reliving their youth. As an encore they wrap up a busy nights graft with ‘Did Your Love Burn Out’ and two festive numbers, ‘Jesus The Reindeer’ and ‘I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday’ leaving all who witnessed it in fine form singing along in harmony. A gathering friends and loved ones join the lads on stage to finalise a great nights music and see off the festive season in style.
A stellar return from this trio, a warm welcome, a perfect way to wrap up 2018. All of which made for a killer set and a reminder that these lads aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Photography : Steven Donnelly / SJD Photography