It must be admitted that the focus of attention on the beer bus en route from Belfast to the depths of the Antrim hills was not on the music which awaited its passengers at the other end, but rather on the small matter of the outcome of a certain football match.
For our carriage had left the city centre just as the final whistle of normal time had sent the FA Cup final into its additional half an hour of play, meaning that three-quarters of those gig-bound spent the journey scrambling for ‘phone and internet signals to catch the precious closing stages… and, by and large, those concerned were happy little revellers when the coach pulled up outside the doors of the DRC and disgorged its contents into the night air and up the venue’s stairs for the first ever visit to Northern Ireland by Romeo’s Daughter.
The whiff of celebration still hung in the air as Safire set the mood. The quartet play a brand of hard-edged classic/melodic rock that should serve as a breath of fresh air on the NI scene. It possesses dense, grunting grooves combined with tough, dirty riffs and huge, swollen melodies. Vocalist Saffron is personable and powerful, with a good range, which suits the slightly darker vibe of their particular interpretation of the genre.
Safire possess some really catchy hooks, such as on the chorus to ‘Miracles’, which gets the crowd clapping and even singing along to the chorus – no mean feat when you consider that the majority had not seen the band before. To be honest, though, they could have done without the off-kilter and distorted version of ‘Purple Rain’ in favour of concentrating on their own very impressive brand of taut rock.
The hard, crunching but massively melodic grooves of the headliners captivate right from the opening power chords of ‘Heaven In The Back Seat’, and by the second track everyone is embraced by their ‘Velvet Touch’.
Leigh Matty proves once again that she is an hypnotic and charismatic performer, but also one who knows how to give her bandmates their places, stepping back as far as the intimate stage will allow during Craig Joiner’s guitar solos. And her ease as winning an audience over is shown by the fact that the majority of the audience are pressing as close to the stage as they can get without actually stepping on to it. And, despite – as mentioned at the top of this review – Romeo’s Daughter never having graced an Irish stage before tonight, there are those who know every word to every song – as well as a few who even have made up their own dances to accompany them!
The result is a rich and luscious performance in every aspect of its delivery, from Matty’s majestically warm vocals through Joiner’s precise guitarwork to the taut rhythms of Ed Poole and Andy Wells. Matty is at ease with the crowd, joking with them about how “we waited a long time to be invited [to Northern Ireland] but then out of the blue…” and with a satisfied smile permanently on her face for the hour or so of the set. Their entire four albun back catalogue gets a good airing, but it is the older songs which most definitely are the crowd favourites, with ‘I Cry Myself To Sleep At Night’ in particular still sounding as strong and vibrant as ever.
Another great set from a band who have been around the block (and back) a few times but still enjoy taking their music to the people – even if it means they have to travel to a tiny backwater to provide their fans who crave such satisfaction with the same.
Heaven In The Back Seat / Velvet Touch / Touch / Radio / Bittersweet / Alive / Lightning / Already Gone / Perfect Plan / Enemy / Keep Walking / Trippin’ Out / Attracted To The Animal
I Cry Myself To Sleep At Night / Inside Out
Will Be / Wild Child
Review by Mark Ashby
Photographs by The Dark Queen
Original Review in Planet Mosh