Friday, 4 December 2009

Horslips -The Odyssey Arena, Belfast

There was trouble at the Odyssey Arena in Belfast last night. Trouble With a Capital T. Almost 30 years after they played their last proper concert at the Ulster Hall in Belfast (immortalised on the live album The Belfast Gigs) Horslips were back.
The hair, beards and glittering costumes that the band favoured during their early days in the 1970s were replaced by sensible clothing but the sound was still unmistakable.
Trouble With a Capital T, Dearg Doom and Sword of Light – rock songs built upon traditional Irish airs were all given a blast.
Also in the set were the more mainstream Man Who Built America, Furniture and the all-out rocker Shaking All Over.
My own particular highlights of the evening ware Charolias from The Tain and good 20-minute section from The Book of Invasions.
Four of the original line-up were on stage – Tyrone-born Barry Devlin on bass and vocals, Johnny Fean on guitar and vocals, Charles O’Connor on mandolin, fiddle and vocals, and Jim Lockhart on keyboards and flute.
Original drummer Eamon Carr, who still works with the band but not on stage, was replaced by Fean’s brother, Ray.
All are superb musicians, Fean in particular seeming to casually flick along the fretboard to draw out some extended but never-dull guitar solos.
Charles O'Connor, the only Englishman in the band, is also a superb multi-instrumentalist, switching between, fiddle, mandolin, concertina, slide-guitar and ad a share of the vocals.
Devlin is laid-back and affable and Lockhart's keyboards and flute gave them that distinct edge that makes their sound so unique.
Horslips built a huge loyal following in the 1970s by bringing Celtic rock to the ballrooms of Ireland including the north where few other rock bands dared to come because of the Troubles.
The Odyssey Arena audience seemed to be a cross section of those who are now in their fifties and sixties who were there first time round and younger fans, ranging from teens through to early middle age who until now only knew the band through their recorded output.
The after-show party (oh the privileges of journalism) was quite a civilized affair that had the feel of a cocktail party rather than a post-gig knees up.
It was interesting to see journalists, DJs and TV presenters all queueing up with the privelege ordinary punters who managed to get in to have their photo taken and gather autographs with the band.
On the way out I saw Eamon Carr standing deep in conversation with someone. How weird must it all have been for him to see the band he is such a central part of playing without him behind the kit?


Michael Brown said...

Was there last night all the way from Derry where the band have a fanatical following and was a magnificent, storming performance by Horslips.
The very large crowd reacted spectacularly to the songs both very old and from their last album.
Horslips really seemed to enjoy the experience and were made to do 3 encores,the crowd finally dispersing only when house lights came on.
Heres hoping the Dublin crowd react in a similar fashion and it will have been a truly rewarding result for the Boys.
Perhaps they may ,like Bob Dylan,consider a never-ending tour !!
We should be so lucky.
Many Thanks guys for making an old(ish) rocker very happy indeed.

stiofainx said...

What a brilliant gig. I came expecting to be disappointed thinking there was no way the lads could re create the energy of the Ulster Hall gigs but they could and they did.
Highlight for me was Deasrg Doom totally amazing and great to hear the old "Horslips clap clap clap" chant from the crowd calling them back.
I brought my 17 year old daughter along, more used to the festival scene like oxygen, she thought it was the best show she had ever seen.
The sound quality was excellent and judging by the number of cameras and Barrys later career path as RTE producer i think we can expect a DVD production to book end the Ulster Hall gigs soon for those unlucky enough to have missed this storming performance.
I would have liked to hear a bit more craic out of Johnny and Charlie but Barry and Jims laidback interaction with the crowd was great.
Anyone going to the Dub gig is in for a treat.
A big thanks to the lads for a great show.

Fionnchú said...

Weird indeed about Mr Carr, I admit. But otherwise, a lucky chance for you to hear the band.

Having been too young for the one time they played the Sunset Strip nightclub in my hometown, I wonder if you had seen them before? But, if John Kelly boasts in his novel at being 12 at a gig by way of the '77 Scout Jamborara, perhaps you like him caught an all-ages Irish show way back when?

Curious how they sound then vs. now on stage. Do they improvise on their songs in concert more? Their "Live" LP for instance played 'them pretty straight, while the "Belfast Gigs" at least on two tunes managed to cut loose. Thanks for the review.

Tony Bailie said...

Michael, I have heard members of the band saying that it was the Derry contingent who were largely responsible for getting them back on the road. I read a piece in the Irish Times and it seemed to be suggesting that there would definitely be more gigs in the future.
Stiofainx, Dearg Doom was also a highlight and I agree that for such a media saavy band there is bound to be a DVD, live album and probably a book due out in time sometime soon.
John, they were pretty faithful to the album when they played on Thursday – a few improvised pieces, but no Dylanesque meddling with the songs.
I was at that gig in 1977 at Mount Mellory but I think I was more taken aback with the spectacle of the thing rather than the music (I was only 12 as well).

niaas2009 said...

It was great to see the band again, but for me the gig was unfortunately spoiled by the sound.
We'd no bass guitar or kick drum in the mix at all during the show....Barry's instrumental contribution went unheard...and volume was quite low, leading to a lack of involvement further back from the stage.
It meant that if Jim Lockhart wasn't cranking the Hammond and Charlie wasn't providing backing happened a couple of times early on...the sound collapsed when Johnny went into a solo.
I've seen the band since their inception and early gigs in late 1971/ early 72, and apart from the nostalgia value I wasn't impressed.
I'm sure socks were pulled up for the O2 show. I hope they do a few more..with someone better on the desk.