Cardinal Black // Nathan O’ Regan // Live Review // Voodoo Belfast
So I have been looking forward to this one for quite a while since it was first announced actually, and I am delighted to say that clearly, Belfast has an appetite for both Cardinal Black and Chris Buck once again. I caught Chris at this very venue back in 2019 I think it was with Buck and Evans and I was delighted to see Cardinal Black announce a show here also, after having closely watched them tour the length and breadth of the UK, I was wondering if we’d ever get to see them on this side of the pond and here we are.
With their debut Album January Came Closeonly released late last year we are in for a treat on this, the third of their Irish run of dates, with both Cork and Dublin playing host before Belfast. An excited crowd is huddled outside the venue as I arrive on a beautiful chilly spring evening in Belfast city centre and the buzz around the venue is palpable. Cardinal Black really needs no introduction, mainly to one Chris Buck, one of the hottest guitar players on the scene right now, mainly Blues-Classic-Rock influenced Chris has a massive following on social media and YouTube with a reputation well beyond his years. A player with the most majestic touch, his videos on his socials are simply mesmerising. It will be an absolute joy capturing him live tonight against the backdrop of Cardinal Black. As an entity, these guys are on a serious trajectory so watch this space. To catch them in a small intimate venue such as Voodoo Belfast will be a memorable occasion for sure.
In support, we have Nathan O’Regan, a local artist (originally from Cork) I have yet to catch live so I am looking forward to that one also. It is always good to catch the young blood coming through the local scene, it helps gauge where we are and if our music scene is in the safe hands of Gen X,Y, and Z!
So around 8:10 Nathan and his partner in crime take the stage, Nathan picks up his acoustic guitar and his compatriot Colm McClean picks up something akin to a Gretsch 335 hollow body style guitar and they get stuck right in. Nathan has a soulful quality to his voice, belting out Bluesy runs with melodic heft that is hard to ignore, in between songs he takes the time to chat and connect with the Belfast audience, retorting stories from the road and their trip to Cork. I enjoy it when an artist can really connect with an audience and Nathan has that quality, but beyond his Irish charm, he is a stellar musician, with a sublime voice that is really showcased by the stripped-back nature of his set which his tasty acoustic work and his guitarists ambient fills just making the songwriting shine as bright thon Chinese Wish ballon’s that the Americans shot down with a $400,000 missile. But all joking aside Nathan Reegan is an artist that should absolutely be on the radar of any Northern Irish music lovers, a musician of serious quality and one to watch for sure. A beautiful set that has put Nathan on my and many’s radar this evening.
As the stage is cleared of the support gear the crowd slowly encroaches forward and anticipation grows for Cardinal Blacks Belfast’s debut. At around 9pm the band make their way through the sold-out crowd and onto the compact stage, a six-piece fairly fills the space and right away the ambient brilliance of Chris Bucks’s guitar fills the room. Much like Nathan Cardinal Blacks lead vocalist Tom Hollister is blessed with the most beautiful soulful voice and right away with the weight of this magical six-piece you understand why they are winning over hearts and minds across the UK and beyond.
The room is completely rammed from front to back and everyone is completely mesmerised by the musicianship coming from the front of the room, the glorious melodies flowing out over the audience as the soaring harmonising vocals reverberate throughout.
The beauty of their songwriting is not only in the heft of their big anthemic chorus’ but also in the spaces in between that they leave for the songs to breathe, creating the most glorious cinematic quality ambient soundscapes that allow you as a listener to get lost in, then you are snapped right out of it by one of the most majestic and soulful guitar players the modern day has delivered. Chris Buck plays like no other guitarist I know, yes of course the modern players all walk in the shadows of the greats who played before them but Buck surely walks side by side as he creates a layer of soloing that pierces even the coldest of hearts.
Fuse that with a band on another level of musicianship and you have something magical unfolding before you. The multilayered vocal harmonies create and sound rarely heard in voodoo, normally Belfast’s go-to metal venue, but tonight its walls are overflowing with the music of Wales’s finest roots rockers.
An absolute joy from start to finish Cardinal Black actually exceeded expectations, a band dripping in quality, with a thirst for more and taking on the world their own way in 2023 and beyond will propel these guys onto the global stage. Looking back in a few years’ time I can say I caught them up close and personal in the intimacy of Voodoo Belfast, in a packed out venue in which Belfast signed off and gave their approval and then some.
Nights like this remind me of why I do what I do, the pleasure of standing up close and personal with artists of this calibre is simply breathtaking and should never be taken for granted. As I exited the building i picked up a signed CD and had to fight with the merch guy to take Northern Ireland’s fake money, lol, ah sure a night’s craic in Belfast where would you be without it?