LIVE: Northern Ireland Music Prize – Mandela Hall

S3 R2 MTC4T4T1T7T5Some of Northern Ireland’s finest music talent gathered at the Mandela Hall on Saturday night for the 2014 NI Music Prize supported by the Oh Yeah Music Centre.

It was a chance for up and coming Northern Ireland talent including Sullivan and Gold, More than Conquerors and eventual winner of this years prize Robyn G Shiels to rub shoulders with established Northern Ireland artists including Gary Lightbody, from Snow Patrol, and Peter Wilson, aka Duke Special.

The evening was compered by Radio Ulster’s Across The Line presenter Rigsy who took a well aimed swipe at internet trolls who had the audacity to question how good the music coming out of Northern Ireland actually is at present. It’s safe to say the 12 Albums up for nomination laid that argument to rest with a mix of country, electro-pop, hard edge punk/rock and everything else imaginable in between.

Three of the nominated acts performed on the evening kicking off with North Coast based Sullivan and Gold who mixed Bombay Bicycle Club, Fleet Foxes and Ben Folds to produce a set filled with harmonies and memorable tunes. Next up was eventual winner Robyn G Shiels. Standing beside me during his set Duke Special described it as “black country” which hit the nail on the head for this very talented singer songwriter whos album “The Blood of the Innocents” won favour with the large judging panel to scoop the Album of The Year award, following in the footsteps of last years winner Foy Vance.

The final nominee to perform was More Than Conquerors. This punk rock quartet, signed to the same Small Town America label as Sullivan and Gold, cranked up the volume and delivered a tight set including new material in the form of the song “Red” showing how much this young band are maturing in their song writing. Whilst only one act could win the award it is very likely that a large number of the nominated acts will go on to bigger and better things.

At around 10.45pm we knew that Robyn G Shiels had won the NI Music Prize and the wait was now on for the arrival of Therapy? to receive their Oh Yeah Legend award and play their 1994 album Troublegum in full. Mike Edgar, former presenter of Across the Line, delivered his thoughts on the contribution of Therapy? to the Northern Ireland music scene.

The awarding of Legends status to the band had them following in the footsteps of Terri Hooley, Stiff Little Fingers and Gary Moore who have been awarded the accolade in recent years. Shortly after 11 pm the volume was turned up to 11 as a full house, many of whom had come specially to see Therapy?, relived their youth and moshed like never before to this three piece punk/rock/metal band from East Antrim, who proved after 20 years they have lost none of the enthusiasm for playing the songs from their critically acclaimed album.

It seems the trendy thing to do these days to play albums in full and on this occasion Troublegum went down a storm with the Therapy? faithful. For me personally the highlights of the set were “Screamager” and the stand out track on the album, and probably best known, “Nowhere”.

All in all the whole night proved that the Northern Ireland music scene is indeed and always has been in a very healthy shape. Michael Ferguson, GiggingNI.com