Gareth Dunlop // Sets The Limelight Alight! With Sam Wickens // Live Review // The Limelight // Belfast

Northern Irish singer-songwriter Gareth Dunlop returns to. Belfast after a whistle-stop tour of the UK supporting his latest release “The House Of I Don’t Know”.

Tonight we are at my second home The Limelight. Unbelievably I forgot to ask “which” limelight I was supposed to be in this fine evening and was greeted by an ageing punk band taking the stage NEXT DOOR before the penny dropped. I ran into catch tonight’s support act Sam Wickens opening up for Mr Dunlop. #scundered

It’s been a minute since I last saw Gareth play locally at The Empire Music Hall where he played to a packed out hall of onlookers all mesmerised by his set. Since then, Gareth has gone from strength to strength and is now ready for world domination one gig at a time with his latest release!  I first came across Gareth courtesy of his local PR and his UK PR team and when the music of a local musician north or south of the border lands on my desk, my ears prick up! One spin and I was smitten, Gareth has that glorious natural raspy voice I love, I’ve grown up listening to numerous vocalists with a similar style and I can easily lose hours of my life going down a rabbit hole when I discover a talent such as this, so tonight is a real pleasure to once again experience Gareth and his band in full swing as they draw this run of the tour to a close, and what a way to do it, at home with friends and family.

As previously mentioned Sam Wickens is supporting this evening and Sam, flying solo, is up on stage captivating the Limelight crowd with a glorious set of emotive songs, a stunning vocal display that signals to all in the room that we are rich In Talent here In Northern Ireland.  That for sure is one thing that is overlooked so often here we indeed do have a huge pool of talent locally, you don’t have to look too far at the hard work of local promoters at venues like The Oh Yeah Center, Voodoo, The Ulster Sports Club, The Empire and The Limelight among others who have a plethora of hard grafting local artists and bands who turn heads every time they play. Remember, I joke all the time when I quote ‘A prophet is never accepted in his home town!’ and more often than not that is true of the local musician, often overlooked for the international touring artist, or even the UK artist jumping across the pond, but get out check out local artists like Sam Wickens and the likes who graft year in, year out, you’ll thank me later.

Sam’s set is a short but sweet affair, hitting home the quality of his songwriting with a stellar vocal display which helped showcase his broad range of styles, an artist you should definitely keep your eye on. Check him out here:



Gareth is one such artist at the very top of his game, at 8:15 the lights dim and his band of brothers takes to the stage, the Limelight erupts with appreciation! They get stuck right in playing two tracks before Gareth takes a moment to soak up the fact that he’s home back in front of a local crowd, saying “Hello Belfast You Beauty” sharing stories from the road and being thankful for the sound of a northern Irish accent once again, and the reminder he’s on home soil amongst friends.

The band has a beautiful setup, Gareth front and centre and the lads behind him as a backline along with the drummer allowing Gareth to shine up front all on his own, for some that would drive the fear of god into them whilst others shine! One of the highlights of the night had to the be when they played their latest single “Go Down Swinging” the sound was just glorious! Building to a crescendo with the whole band giving everything they had whilst Gareth’s vocals soared like I’ve never heard before, an anyhemic track worthy and sounding like stadium rock! It was a beautiful thing to witness.

The last time we caught Gareth and Co. was back in 2022 at The Empire and from memory could have been a 3 piece that night possibly a four piece at most, but the set was more sedate, a chilled affair, tonight the set has been curated to fill the room with bangers, uptempo in your face numbers that showcase a broader side to their songwriting and it’s going down well with the Belfast crowd. The backline filling every corner of the room, the sound is crystal clear allowing every nuance to shine, the shimmer on the guitars, the the harmonising vocals and Gareth’s vocals are all on point! One thing I took away from the last show that’s once again so apparent is the bands ability to leave space in the songs, allowing the vocals to shine when needed, nobody is overplaying, over stepping the mark, a very disciplined performance, like on “Sorrow” one of my personal favourite tracks, such an emotive song, the chord phrasing, the vocal lines and the harmonies performed by the band were breathtaking, worth the entrance fee alone.

As the party continues the disco ball is lit up and the room is ablaze in sparkles, the band are on fire 🔥 and the room is absolutely bouncing! Belfast is having one hell of a party and it’s all thanks to the return of Gareth Dunlop in 2024. As the band quickly exit the stage and come back on for an encore they gather around the mic centre stage to support Gareth on backing vocals for a beautiful acoustic number as the place falls silent, you could literally hear a pint drop as all watched in delight at the musicianship on show. To wrap up things the lads play out with “Look Back Smiling” a perfect message for all in the room who are overwhelmed with joy singing in unison as Gareth gathers the band to bow to the Belfast audience, smiles beaming from both the bands and fans alike as the roars of approval ring out allowing the guys to soak it all up one last time !

If you havent had the pleasure, catch Gareth and the guys any chance you can, it s well worth your hard earned money.

Gareth Dunlop


Review & Photography: Mark McGrogan

@flashartmark #flashartmark @rocknloadmag