LIVE: The Riptide Movement – Empire Hall, Belfast

trm_3Rock country-blues outfit The Hot Sprockets offered up electric support before the headliners.

One romping bluesy guitar based beauty after another set a very high bar for The Riptide Movement to follow. From ‘Soul Bro’ to ‘Dip It In’ they had everything going for them. They even had the sideburns. They are festival favourites here and aren’t too difficult to catch. If you haven’t already, I suggest you do.

The Riptide Movement came on stage one-by-one, and with a “Hello Belfast” from Mal Tuohy they launched into ‘Hot Tramp’. It was The Cult meets ZZ Top and the growing audience bought into it immediately. The crowd was made up of real fans. They knew the words and anticipated the chorus. A couple of men pushed through the crowd in a hurry to get to the front of the stage, one of them was all elbows and quickly growing dance moves as he went. As the band brought us straight through into ‘Friday to Sunday’, our dancing friend had started to hug ladies who didn’t want to be, and wobbling pints in people’s hands. This, I decided, was going to be tonight’s harmless Pain in the Hole.

Still moving forward, the guitars and noticeably the trumpet transported us quickly through to the rocking ‘Cocaine Cowboys’. They had brought a guest trumpeter whose name is Rob Grant I think. Guitarist John Dalton’s curtain-parted hair flapped all over the place as he concentrated on the job

It was during ‘Warming Up The Band’ that I first noticed bassist Ger Mc Garry was multi-tasking. While playing the bass guitar with one hand he was playing the harmonica with the other. I was impressed so started to watch him hard, and realised that despite all the effort he was putting into that mouth organ, I couldn’t actually hear it. This thankfully didn’t hold true for the rest of the gig as the one armed harmonica playing came into its own on future songs such as ‘Skin And Bones.’

We were told to “feel free to sing along” to ‘Animal’. This is a talent of the group, maybe even a selling point; Mal’s ability to grab the audience and keep them engaged is pretty masterful and must surely be one of the reasons they are moving in the upward trajectory they find themselves. I joined in with the chorus even though I wasn’t sure of the words.

trm_2Title track of the new album ‘Getting Through’ had us joining in with the chorus too. The Pain in the Hole had danced his way back to the front of stage again and the crowd had parted like the Red Sea to let him through. In the calmer parts of the song John Dalton was walking his finger across his guitar like a spider, but by the end of the number there were dog-howl harmonies coming from the audience and there were plain men jumping. It was round about this time that I noticed a couple of Hot Sprockets at the front of the crowd too. They weren’t jumping, but the night was still reasonably young.

Mal clapped in the start of ‘How Can I Let You Go’, and the trumpet was a noticeable fifth layer to the song. He had us joining in with the chorus, but that one was easy, it was that one line over and over. Then the band started playing statues. Mid song Mal lent forward and froze, pointing into the crowd. John had his arm up in the air; and it stayed there, for quite a long time. I remember this in black and white so the lights may have framed them like this. It seems the only person at the front of the hall who wasn’t caught by it was The Pain in the Hole, who was playing imaginary drums at the time.

Rocky blues guitar set the tone for ‘Shake Shake’ during which Mal had different parts of the room shouting out the chorus. ‘Thieves In The Gallery’ was the first song of theirs I heard all those years ago. Tonight it started out with simple guitar very similar to the version my iTunes holds, but then it turned bigger, it turned anthemic. With a good dose of trumpet in the background the audience was dancing in the foreground, and joining in on the chorus. A number of men were dancing with feeling I noticed, and then the closed-eye finger points kicked in. By the end the band was jumping, the room was jumping. It was cracker.

By encore time the audience was totally plugged-in. ‘Keep On Keepin’ On’ had that anthemic feel to it as well, as the audience bounced through the song. Then to my right the trumpet suddenly sounded loud and I realised that Rob had come off stage and was standing on the steps beside me, happily working the crowd. With a big “Woohoo” from him at the end he disappeared back onstage. The last two songs were the singles off ‘Getting Through.’ The momentum grew pretty rapidly between them. The audience obviously knew them inside out. A Belfast audience would always embrace the opportunity to shout lines like “You don’t think that your shit don’t stink”, and indeed they did with all the enthusiasm you can muster.

Last song of the night, ‘All Works Out’ had Mal on the dance floor singing the chorus repeatedly with ecstatic backing vocals from the audience. They were on fire. People were singing with their arms around him, there were ongoing selfies as they sang; there was jumping and shouting and rapturous arm waving. The Pain in the Hole was grabbing people’s heads and squeezing in excitement. He had become Lennie from ‘Of Mice and Men’. But there was no drama here. In fact this good natured overjoyed crowd barely got annoyed. They just kept on keepin’ on. What a champion night. Cara Gibney, GiggingNI.com