June 11, 2012 in Blog

Live Review: Cursive, Kevin Devine @ Limelight, Belfast

It’s been a long time since Nebraska’s finest, Cursive played in Belfast. Six long years to be precise, and that was a festival slot. Kevin Devine’s not been here since 2008 either; “not since the big wheel was here”. But the wheels kept on spinning (or in this case, being dismantled) until finally the pair joined up again to bring their indie-rock back to an appropriately intimate setting.

Kevin Devine takes to the stage first, alone with his trusty guitar, nothing but a blue spotlight to set the scene. As soon as he sings the first few notes of “You’ll Only End Up Joining Them”, you can hear a pin-drop. Everyone’s silently transfixed as the rasping rocker strums and croons through a set of achingly heart-felt, indie-folk.

The biggest cheer comes for the intro of “Time To Burn”. Kevin tells us he’s had too much burrito pre-gig and you can almost see the food sweats kicking in as he strains his vocals through the final few songs – but it works. Kevin Devine has this innate charm – he doesn’t quite demand you sit up and pay attention in the way Frank Turner for example would, but Kevin will tug on your heartstrings, drag you in and tangle you up in them. Lovely.

Cursive shake things up with their avant-garde approach to indie-rock; complicated guitar hooks, jazz injections, emotive lyrics hush-hushed then shouty-shouted. They don’t follow anyone’s rule-book, opening with “This House Alive”, “Big Bang” and “Gentleman Caller”, without stopping for breath or applause. It’s a relentless start which they follow up with some surprising older favourites such as “The Martyr” and “Sink To The Beat”.

Proving they don’t follow anyone’s rule-book, they tear up their own by playing “The Recluse” at half the speed of the album version. Tim Kasher’s a curious front-man, swaying and jerking, slinking to the floor and rising again. He points to the crowd while singing the most angst-ridden lyrics as if he’s poking us right in our souls. The quieter, emotional lines are whispered from behind his hand, like he’s letting us in on his secrets. At times, Kasher seems possessed, at others simply trollied; either way, utterly captivating.

They close the set with “Eulogy For No Name”, feedback looping as they exit the stage. It doesn’t look like they’d planned an encore but the crowd manages to convince them back to play another couple including an extended improv version of “Art Is Hard”. Art might be hard but Cursive make it look easy.

*As originally published on BBC’s Across The Line – June 2012*

April 24, 2012 in Blog

Live Review: Lostprophets @ Ulster Hall, Belfast

It’s a wet, windy Monday evening and Lostprophets are in Belfast for the second date of their tour. Rumour has it they were pumping iron in the local gym before taking to the stage – it’s only apt that they were preparing to treat us to a ‘gun show’ for their fifth studio release, Weapons.

The stage set up is impressive; there’s a massive Lostprophets backdrop and when they blast off with opener, Bring ‘Em Down, we’re blinded by strobes of white light interspersed with blue spotlights. It’s mightily impressive even if it’s a little difficult to look at the stage for too long at a time.

The opening segment of the set is largely made up of new songs and it’s safe to say it’s a slow start for Watkins and co. After initially seeming more interested in ensuring his asymmetrical haircut swooped to his left, he eventually loosens up a little and lets it hang to the right. That, ladies and gentlemen, is what rock’n’roll is all about. The crowd are a little subdued and Watkins is visibly frustrated – he attempts to engage the crowd, asking them to sing-a-long but the response is muted. He says he feels like he’s at a wake and asks, “Would you rather be watching Emmerdale farm?”. It’s a little awkward.

Things warm up when they play A Town Called Hypocrisy and it’s not long before Watkins whips out his lightsaber. Don’t worry, it’s good clean fun.. it’s a huge laser which shines right up to the roof of the Ulster Hall as he swooshes it around like Luke Skywalker. It’s pretty cool.

The second half of the set feels a lot more like a greatest hits selection and Lostprophets really do have an amazing back catalogue of radio-friendly rock songs jam-packed with huge sing-a-long choruses – the highlight of the set is the trio of Last Summer, Rooftops and Shinobi vs Dragon Ninja, one after the other.

The funniest moment of the evening comes when they jokingly sing a little Backstreet Boys, “Everybody..”, which elicits the biggest response from the crowd of the night, “Yeah….”, much to the bemusement of Watkins who has been trying without luck to get them to sing along all evening.

There’s an extended intro to Last Train Home, before the last hurrah of Burn, Burn has the entire Ulster Hall bouncing and singing along. Finally. They briefly exit before coming back on for a slightly muted encore of Everyday Combat and Sway.

It was a little bit of a damp ending, a little bit of a damp opening and a little bit of a damp journey to the venue but for an hour in the middle, Lostprophets were lethal.

*As originally published on BBC’s Across The Line – April 2012*