Michelle McTernan is a PR guru but she also has her finger firmly on the pulse of Northern Ireland’s music scene. Earlier this year she introduced me to a host of stunning local talent at the launch of the Sunflower Fest. Last night she did it again when she invited me to see Co. Tyrone’s finest folk rock band The Logues play at The Empire, Belfast, ahead of their US and Middle Eastern tour.
Keith and I arrived to the venue at 8.30pm and were shown to the upstairs area, where The Empire had laid on a fabulous spread of sparkling Prosecco and mouth-watering pizzas; it’s a tough life, I hear you say. Other guests enjoying these tasty delights included local legend Pamela Ballantine, Citybeat DJ Robin Elliott, bloggers Emer Dooris and Kathryn from fashion and beauty blog Fabulous and Something, to name a few.
To warm the crowd up for The Logues, support was in the shape of the dapper Tony Villiers and his band Villiers and the Villains. Although a new talent, Tony already has the stage presence of a professional, masterfully switching from guitar to harmonica as well as singing with a resonating passion. After his set we got to speak to Tony and for someone so talented he was incredibly self-deprecating and his clear excitement at performing at The Empire was simply a delight to witness. He was also sweet enough to sign a copy of his record for us, which I am going to hold on to as I really believe his is a star on the rise.
After a short interlude The Logues took to the stage. Their first song was a raucous number: fierce, frantic and bursting with rhythm throughout. This was one epic introduction to the band. The tempo continued throughout the night leaving me in absolutely no doubt as to why they are rapidly becoming one of Ireland’s most sought after live bands. After ten years together the band have a natural chemistry, whilst their cheeky banter makes you want to be their mate. Vocals are shared between Kiel Cathers (who also plays guitar) and Logan McCool (who plays a mean tin whistle and has dance moves that would put Bez from the Happy Mondays to shame). Both have amazing voices, as proved by what they themselves described as a ‘Westlife style key change’. The rest of the band is made up by Chris Speer (who rocks the banjo, electric guitar and mandolin); Darrell Nelson (who totally knows how to boss the drums); and Jesse Darragh (master of the bass).
As well as playing a selection of their own songs, which are not so much toe-tapping but instead have an intensity that makes you want to dance your feet right off, they also threw in some covers that really showed off the band’s range. From one of my all time favourites, the gorgeous ‘All I Want Is You’ to Tenacious D’s ‘Tribute’ and there is no way I can’t mention their amazing rendition of Father Ted’s legendary ‘My Lovely Horse’, this is a band that surprises, and throughout the night they had the audience laughing, dancing and singing along.
I loved this gig. It makes me proud by association that Northern Ireland can nourish such astounding talent as Villiers and the Villains and The Logues. From the haunting tenderness of the songs crafted by Tony Villiers to the exciting and foot-stomping collection from The Logues, I have learnt two things: I have been well and truly converted to folk music and I now want a harmonica.