The Limelight has played host to many fantastic bands and musicians over the years, some from as far wide as the United States and some as close as Ormeau Road. Sometimes the gap in class is invisible, sometimes the difference is huge. Needless to say if there is a gap to be identified, the Limelight is the venue that gives those opportunities a chance to surface. Local music is what they can thrive off. The hustle and bustle of Belfast boots and the echoing of Belfast slang is what people have come to expect and demand. Transmit, one of the finest promoters the country has to offer, played host to an incredible lineup – one that made that gap of class non-existent.
GoSwim, a Belfast five-piece, hurried quickly onto the stage soon after doors opened around nine o’clock on a cold Winter’s night. The flurry of footsteps soon followed the music towards the stage as their sweetly-designed melodies put a sway in people’s step. Potentially radio-dominating songs performed with grace and honesty, fronted with a male and female duo, Steven Smith and Julianne Shawe, confident enough to make the unaware aware. The enthusiasm and assertiveness of GoSwim was special; considering they were good enough to be battling for the headline.
Next on stage, with a few fans lining the front of the audience, were Pretty Child Backfire. Now, after years of experience playing and working the Belfast circuit, they played through a set with a good arrogance and a sense of domination to show they’ve done this before and they’ve got the set to prove it. There were great harmonies and melodies performed to perfection and some of their songs were crafted with beauty – a solid act to rely on to keep you warm dancing throughout their set. It was very good. Without being amazing. They could mix into the musical background with other bands but sadly I don’t think I could set them apart.
We were lucky enough to have Dublin-based act Leaders of Men make the trip up to the capital to support Runaway GO. Having never witnessed them before, leaving my mind wondering, Leaders of Men came on stage with ease – not aggression or attempting to overpower an audience in an unfamiliar environment. Familiar to Arctic Monkeys and a little hint of Biffy Clyro, they performed with elegance which gently won over a Belfast crowd. The frontman, equipped with a convincing smile to win over the ladies at the front, was a real credit to the five-piece, having seen many lone frontmen just stand and bellow down the mic. He sang well, with passion, and commanded the stage like a ship’s captain battling the storm through the sea. “For want of a better word…” was the line that stuck in most minds contained in a song which really displayed the potential of Leaders of Men. Headlining in Dublin and being there to witness it I think would be truly special so if you get an opportunity, be sure to make the trip.
Anyone with Kagura memories? Fans of Phoenix Fire? They were all here. Young and a little less young, they gathered as the lights dimmed and the background music was silenced. The time was now. Equipped as Runaway GO and fresh from supporting Bastille in Ireland, they took to the stage with confidence and determination. Blasting into their opener, front duo Fiona O’Kane and Dave Jackson stuck religiously to harmonies whilst adhering to their own instrument duties, captivating the audience as they went. With the same domination as ever time before, they commanded the stage like the best major artists can do, eyes glued upon them. Tops were requested to come off by tambourine-bashing frontman Dave Jackson as he spurred on the dancers, chanters and the singing choir in the seats located just opposite the stage. Soon after, and not many times before, The Limelight 2 was silent. Everyone was still present, with easily well over a hundred people. The repetition of “shh!” reverberated around the venue as Fiona and Dave, helped by guitarist James Lappin, sweetly performed a rendition of “Wide Awake” for the stunned audience. Their eagerness was soon followed by shock and open mouths, with jaws dropped from the band, as the Limelight crowd soon joined together and sang above the band during the chorus. It was majestic. Favourites like “Alligator” were performed and crowd-pleaser “Jump Start” finished their set with people bouncing before demanding an encore. As they returned, they announced the bittersweet departure of drummer Javed Love, during their last song of their last gig in 2013, and encouraged everyone to get involved with arguably their most popular song “Delicate Man”. You had to be there to witness that. Set for a new album in 2014, that Ulster Hall show of your own may not be too far off Dave. Mark Dunn.