live review ~ a plastic rose ~ button factory, dublin

This week Encore NI traveled down South for the triumphant return of Belfast's adopted sons A Plastic Rose, as they took to  the stage at the Button Factory in Dublin, supporting Irish legends Turn. Since their move across the water to Nottingham last year the band's stature has continued to grow, the release of new single 'This Side Of Winter' unsurprisingly capturing the attention of many big names and regularly gaining airplay on the likes of BBC Radio 1 in the process. It's been a long haul, but one which has made the lads recent rise all the sweeter for the dedicated and passionate 'APRmy', which has also recruited a new legion of fans to add to it's Belfast core. As the lads took to the stage for the last time in a remarkable 2013, it seemed fitting that our own Taylor Johnson was there, headbanging along to every word...

To see A Plastic Rose in a venue such as The Button Factory in Dublin is becoming a rarer and rarer experience. The relative intimacy of the venue, coupled by the bands position in the support slot, is one which will almost certainly be confined to the memories of the lucky few who can say they were there before long, as our boys are on the cusp of album number two and with it, a further push into the mainstream consciousness. Opening with 'Camera.Shutter.Lifes' pile driving first track 'Build From The Ground Up', APR set the tone from the opening thrashing guitar strum. Even without the orchestral effects provided on the album and at their sell out 'Farewell Belfast' gig, the power and passion was not lost as the band eased into top gear. Fan favorite 'All You Know & Love Will Die' also captured the audience, lead guitarist Ian McHugh's vocal as fierce as ever. New single 'This Side Of Winter' showed the lads radio friendly credentials, from the flawless opening vocal melodies to the incredibly catchy chorus. What's incredible about the single however, is how they've managed to capture the pure essence of their earliest work and channel that enthusiasm and energy in to a track bursting with hit potential.

The bands on stage presence was as effortlessly cool as you'd imagine, when thanking Turn for the use of their instruments while there's was back home, McHugh noted that bassist Troy Heatons bass was in fact his Nieces. 'Which will make it all the more special when we destroy the gear at the end of the gig'.

The first of many songs taking influence from the ocean, the hauntingly beautiful '...And The Sea', was delivered in perfect balance. From the pristine, maudlin intro to the big hitting chorus, every aspect as captivating as a band headlining a major festival. Certainly, it was performed with as much enthusiasm.

Another fan favorite, 'Boy Racer', highlighted the tightness and raw efficiency of the groups rhythm section, Heaton's bass playing taking center stage for the explosive breakdown, while drummer David Reid never missed a beat, in a floury of pure energy.

Perhaps the highlight of the set came late on however, as the big hitting 'Kids Don't Behave Like This' brought the audience to a sea of waving arms. Frontman Gerry Norman was in total control, as his pitch perfect vocal was screamed back to him by the now manic audience which had gathered tight to the front of the stage. Then, in an act of incredible showmanship, he gave one lucky fan the opportunity of a lifetime, bringing them on stage to sing the final electrifying chorus to a Dublin crowd well and truly in the hands of the band before them. If further evidence was needed of A Plastic Rose's humility and pure love for what they do, this was it. The fan on stage was certainly given a moment he will never forget and the loving audience appreciated it just as much. True ecstasy, it's not difficult to understand why A Plastic Rose are the band of the people.

This was followed by a beauty from the incredible 'The Promise Notes' EP, 'The Metal Man'. Wrapped in a storm of melancholy guitar, you could feel every ounce of emotion from the captivating lyrics of isolation and longing for the Atlantic ocean. As near silence fell for the mesmerising refrain of 'So Ill waste my time, like you said, like you always said, and I will shine, my light, into the sea' you truly felt at one with the band. Album closer 'Suns A Shadow' then provided an uplifting ending, as Belfast's favorite band thanked the crowd for their time and left.

Although they may not live on these shores anymore, you could feel the love and adoration of the people for a band on the verge of more major success.

As Gerry Norman declared mid way through their brilliant set, 'We're A Plastic Rose and we're from Belfast'; and with A Plastic Rose, you know they'll never forget that.

Taylor Johnson

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