live review ~ 'good vibes for terri hooley' ~ fundraiser, limelight, belfast

In a heartwarming tribute to Northern Ireland's Godfather of punk, last night saw some of this countries best songwriters gather for a memorable night in the Limelight.

Headlined by Ash frontman Tim Wheeler, (fresh from the release of his debut solo album), the sold out audience were treated to a series of memorable performances, most notably from the stunning Bronagh Gallagher, who's voice continues to defy the passing of time, as she sounded better than ever.

To open an evening of this stature would always require a certain level of energy and charisma, perhaps going some way to explain the emergence of the awesome Verse Chorus Verse (pseudonym of  former ASIWIFA guitarist Tony Wright) , who provided a set of typical verve. Upbeat and affirming, Verse Chorus Verse's rough vocals and powerful songs filled the venue, showing his professionalism whilst remaining genuinely grateful for such an opportunity. Everything from his trademark movement on stage, to his childhood tales of buying records from Good Vibrations (and indeed finding his moniker on a Nirvana album suggested to him by Mr Hooley himself) acted as an appropriate and entertaining start to the evening.

He was followed by the vaudeville stylings of Duke Special, who provided a set of daring Victorian undertones and dark piano. Not scared to literally batter his instrument, Special's unique theatrics were enthralling from the outset; even if at times it detracts from the magnificent piano playing which form the basis of his act. Culminating in a brilliant cover of The Magnetic Fields cult track 'Andrew In Drag', Duke Special looked incredibly comfortable back on the big stage, it was refreshing to see him back up there.

By the time Tired Pony's Iain Archer took to the stage, proceedings were well underway and the crowd finally seemed up for it. A sensational performance of tracks taken mainly from his album 'To The Pine Roots', saw Archer with just his acoustic guitar. Though this can often leave an artist badly exposed, the opposite must be said for Archer, as his guitar playing and the strength of his voice were highlighted beautifully by the likes of 'Everest' and 'Black Mountain Quarry'. Bringing bandmate Bronagh Gallagher on for a finalé of the glorious ''I Am The Landslide', it begs the question as to why Archer doesn't gig more regularly on his own. Though having said this, looking after teenage sensation Jake Bugg may be time consuming enough...

Little Matador's Nathan Connolly and Dave Magee then gave their acoustic interpretation of the alt-rock bands heavier tunes, surly no easy task. Calling upon memories of 'Nirvana Unplugged' for inspiration, songs like the pulsating 'Shatter' had a new swagger in what is a fairly intimate stage for a band of their size. Clearly enjoying themselves, the banter between the band and audience was almost as entertaining as the music itself, though once again Bronagh Gallagher stepped in to elevate the performance to new heights ~ bravely stepping in for the ill Garry Lightbody to sing an emotional 'Chasing Cars'.

As the last line's of Gary Lightbody's singalong masterpiece faded out, on came former Energy Orchard frontman Bap Kennedy. Having shed his 'indie rebel' skin long ago, Kennedy's roots are now firmly set in the country mold, though that didn't hinder his performance in any way. With a solid band around him, Kennedy now channels much of the same sound as Steve Earl, who of course asked  a young Energy Orchard to support him on a string of dates in the early 90's after stumbling across them in a North London pub. Measured, controlled and never off key, it was a performance of integrity from a local hero.

The night then came to an end with Tim Wheeler, beloved by the crowd before he even opened his mouth. Treating the crowd to acoustic performances of 'Oh Yeah', 'Kung Fu' and of course, 'Girl From Mars', was a humble move from an artist who has just released a stunning debut album in it's own right. Festive renditions of songs he wrote with London based-singer Emmy The Great ('Christmas Day (I Wish I Was Surfing)' & 'Jesus The Reindeer' respectively) went down brilliantly, but undoubtedly the highlight of the set and possibly the entire evening was yet to come. A full band rendition of Terri Hooley's favorite song 'Be My Baby' by The Ronnette's (led by Bronagh Gallagher) and The Undertones 'Teenage Kicks' saw the venue in full voice.

A fitting tribute to Terri Hooley and one that will certainly not be forgotten anytime soon.

Taylor Johnson


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