So Belfast’s iconic Ulster Hall plays host yet again to a packed out crowd for what will be another nights majestic entertainment courtesy of Canadian Folk-Bluegrass supergroup The Dead South having played here in Jan 2019 at a much more intimate venue (The Palm House) The boys return with the world at their feet and an ever-growing fanbase who have fallen in love with their quirky charm and beautiful musical theatre.
Two like-minded and equally breathtaking artists are here to support and we ave an earlier than usual start as Danny 0liver takes the stage at 7:50 – the Ulster Hall is packed out even for the support which is great to see and even more so that The Dead South has managed to pull such a large crowd once again on their return. The stunning line up ensures the crowd is getting some serious bang for their buck, Danny Oliver himself a resident of Regina, Saskatchewan just like The Dead South, in true troubadour style mesmerizes the Belfast crowd with his melodic charm and beautiful emotive storytelling. In a short but sweet set, he makes his mark and certainly resonated with the Irish crowd.
8:30 and once again the lights dim as four highly excitable lads hit the stage in the form of Noble Jacks, these lads are a punchy Americana-Folk-Rock band that brings a high energy, high intensity set packed with a contemporary feel to their sound. Electric guitars fused with the fiddle, thumping bass and intriguing drum patterns which carry a distinctively folk vibe yet totally turning it all on its head and equally sounding like an 80’s pop band being reworked! Frontman Will Page with his Peaky Blinders cap looks the part as he interchanges instruments in between songs, belting out highly addictive vocal melodies and huge sing-along choruses that the crowd can’t help but warm too. Orchestrating the crowd and he pushes and pulls at them as the gleefully oblige. It’s easy to see why these guys have become so popular as they have clocked up the miles up and down across the UK forging a solid fan base, with appearances at Glastonbury and Cambridge Folk Fest there is no stopping Noble Jacks.
A quick changeover and the stage is cleared with old-time lanterns placed onstage in front of each member of the band, as the lights drop the Ulster Hall erupts. As a Dead South virgin, one doesn’t quite know what to expect, I like to live life on the edge without researching a band before I see them so that I get the full cherry popping experience! What ensues is a truly beautiful thing, a room bouncing to the vibe of Canadian Folk-Bluegrass and the most eclectic collection of people all mesmerized by this quartet delicately announcing themselves to Belfast’s iconic venue. To think this very same venue played host to Led Zeppelin’s first-ever live performance of ’Stairway To Heaven’ and just last week ‘Asian Hooker’ by Steel Panther, tonight’s musical canter is a pleasant change of pace.
What we have here is an altogether more cinematic experience, The Dead South offer a sense of theatre as they toss out quirky tunes with stunning melodic pieces, which chop and change on a whim, the lines blurred between where one song stops and another starts as they reinvent their catalog for the live experience. Interchanging vocals, multi-talented, multi-instrument playing musicians who deliver a sense of theatre over their set that you can’t help but feel totally immersed in the experience, or for some an out of body experience. Fedora’s and Stetson’s as far as the eye can see, beards as big as Billy F. Gibbons adorned by the gents in the room seems to be the name of the game here, hipsters as far as the eye can see, integrated with silver surfers, young emos and Neo from The Matrix. If ever there was a more diverse group of people in one room I’d like you to tell me as this actually gives you faith in humanity! That in itself speaks of the appeal of this crazy-ass band playing one of Irelands most historic music venues some 6000km away. The Dead South have brought a niche genre to the masses and through beautiful composition and storytelling have managed to blur the lines between genres, between fan-bases and musical tastes and as I can see far and wide looking across the mass of sweaty bodies inside this building tonight that doesn’t look like it is going to change anytime soon.
Review & Photography: Mark McGrogan
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