What can you say about a lineup like this? Holly Moly the mind boggles!
For a lover of all things Punk and Punk-Rock, this is one collection of musicians to make the mouth water, the crowds pile into CHSQ in anticipation of a party atmosphere in the company of old friends, both in the form of their childhood heroes and the company around them. The square itself is glistening as the lights from the stage rain down on the highly excitable fans below, kicking off tonight’s proceedings is the mighty Ricky Warwick & The Fighting Hearts.
Ricky himself originally from Newtownards is no stranger to the local scene even today now that he is an L.A. native, whenever there is a stellar line-up in Northern Ireland Ricky is there! Deservedly so, one of Norn Iron’s prodigal sons we love a bit of Warwick regardless of the form, The Fighting Hearts, Thin Lizzy, The Almighty, Black Star Riders, Ricky has done it all, he can surely talk the talk and walk the walk. So it’s an absolute delight to have him back once again rocking this city to its core. One thing you’ll always get is a blistering performance that’s honest and gritty, the only complaint is it is all too short and sweet and for those who came down to rock with Ricky the packed bill means there is only a limited time with one of Northern Ireland’s finest exports. The guys deliver as expected and leave the Belfast crowd wound up tighter than an eight-day clock! Oh Ricky do come back soon.
The one deviation from the Punk theme of the night is The Selecter, Coventry-based Ska-Collective who are bringing their own classic magic to proceedings as they kick off the evening’s entertainment. Formed way back in 1979 they offer a truly classic and honest approach to their sound that so many of their contemporaries today try to replicate, but when you have the real thing in front of you, you know that you are being treated to a very special performance indeed. One of the true innovators of the Ska-Punk scene The Selecter tossed out magical tunes one after another to great aplomb and the Belfast crowd soaked them up, but this party is only getting started.
Derry’s own The Undertones are our penultimate band of the evening, ramping up the crowd into a punk frenzy, pumping out fan favourites like ‘You’ve Got My Number (Why Don’t You Use It)’, ‘Here Comes The Summer’ and the one the only ’Teenage Kicks’ but it wouldn’t have mattered what they played as the love for The Undertones when back in Belfast is so great they can practically walk on water here. The line-up may have fluctuated over the years but the songs are timeless and they are still delivered with all the class and verve that they were back in the early days. The crowd are bouncing like they’re back in their teens and reliving every memory of those chaotic years, warbling out the vocals as their lives depend on it. For sure there are going to be a few sore heads around Belfast tomorrow.
The time has come and Stiff Little Fingers arrives to rock CHSQ, opening with ’Suspect Device’ and the crowd goes wild, banging out classics like ‘When We Were Young’, ’Silver Lining’ , State Of Emergency’ and ’Tin Soldiers’ and more the crowd got behind each and every track giving their all to one of Northern Irelands most famous bands. A back catalogue that could have the guys playing all night seems to fly by, people tossing themselves around like they are still in their teens, singing at the top of their voices in unison to their heroes and all waiting for that one song that defined this magical band. But like any great band, they make you wait for it, the Belfast crowd are in fine form and are happy to oblige as they party like it’s 1979! It must have been a glorious time to experience the rise of bands like SLF and The Undertones in the flesh, more chaotic obviously during the times of the troubles but having spoken with bands who rose out of the ashes of those years and growing up watching the likes of Motorhead, SLF, The Undertones, The Misfits, Iggy & The Stooges in the flesh and came out the other side of it to tell the tale, wow, just wow. For me and tonight, this is my reality, I was just a pup when these guys hit the scene but they have been integral in my musical education over the years, embedded in my brain and DNA, a right of passage and as ‘Alternative Ulster’ kicks in all I can do is give in to its majesty. What a line-up, what a night.
Photography By Paul Verner