LIVE: Electric Six – Limelight, Belfast

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It’s good to have those nights out when you get to see a few live acts, even if it is an eclectic range of music.

What makes it a great night, though, is when this seemingly random assortment of bands comes together to not only give a great mix of musical styles but to actually break down boundaries and expectations. All too often you find most bands at gigs are of similar genres or tastes, and that’s not a criticism. What is rare is to find bands that, musically, appear to have no real common ground at all, yet they gel so perfectly in such a way that you wish it was a regular occurrence. That was my immediate impression after seeing the Electric Six, Andy D and The Whereabouts play together at the Limelight this year.

Andy D was the first on stage to kick the night off. Firstly, prepare yourself. He’s weird yet wonderful in a way that he is certifiably insane. And you won’t be able to take your eyes away from him. Dressed like the ultimate 80s persona, his catchy hip hop, electro rap style will have you hooked, as will his overall stage presence, if you don’t demand to highly of him. What you see is, well, not what you expected but it definitely what you get.

Joined on stage by backing singer Anna Vision, who produced a sweet and delicate harmony, the two instantly created a nostalgic party vibe, for the older crowd, and a “let’s go crazy” party vibe, reminiscent of Andrew W.K., for the younger crowd. It’s abundantly clear how successful Andy D’s approach is as he had a large mix of everyone in the audience dancing and cheering while he not only interacted with them on stage but took the time off to mingle and dance amongst them. Rapping from sex, to partying, to friends, to mystical animals, and always with upbeat, synth tempos, Andy D sang from all three of his albums, the most recent of which is Warcries. Finishing up on an encore was ‘Now I can Dance’, one of the best performances Andy D and Anna Vision gave that night, it was the perfect culmination to their rap and dance ensemble.

The Whereabouts, a four piece from County Cavan, were next to the stage with their rock and roll, rhythm and blues infused songs. Heavily influenced by the all the great bands of the 60s, this young group has risen very quickly, after only forming in 2013. Being the first time I had seen them, and only finding out they are all teenagers starting out for the first time, I was amazed at how talented they are. Picking up where The Beatles, Rolling Stones and Muddy Waters left off, and introducing a modern feel to the classic sounds. The Whereabouts performed above my expectations as I originally thought they would be a gimmick band, all dressed in the early fashion of The Beatles, that would be no different from any other tribute band. While they may only be a niche band, targeted by a very defined audience, due to their almost exclusive musical tastes and styles, there is little doubt that there is a bright future ahead for them if they can cultivate the right skills to progress.

The main aspect that they need to work on is their interaction with the crowd during and between songs. It is standard practice to introduce the next song or to smile at the audience but it is more than just a skill to be able to engage and capture the thoughts and feelings of the audience with stories, anecdotes and general stage charisma. If they can master that like they have with their performance, and to surround themselves with the right fans and performers, then that is a show I want to be at. Young, energetic and clearly enthusiastic, The Whereabouts have a long path to travel, and a lot to learn along the way. If you happen to cross paths then at least give them a listen, especially if you are a fan of classic rock and roll or blues, as they bring a good set to the stage.

After being warmed up by Andy D and The Whereabouts, the audience was booming for headlining act Electric Six to take to the stage. Lead singer, Dick Valentine, immediately set the mood and focus of the show stating that “this is our job, we’re here to sell you our records. We have nine to sell to you”. There was no cause for rambling or extended speeches, they are here for one purpose and, like true showmen, will do what it takes to meet their goal. Luckily for us, to firstly reach that intended goal, they played a vast selection from across all their albums. Starting with the hits from the recently released ‘Human Zoo’ album, and working back to their more prominent and well known songs, Electric Six were superb with keeping the crowd dancing throughout their set.

Small gestures, dances and posses from Dick Valentine during songs constantly received cheers, while his small dealings with the audience alone were a stroke of genius that never failed to entertain or result in laughter and applause. Having a clear and well crafted stage persona, Dick Valentine acted as the quintessential front man, blending short and clever monologues with crowd pleasing songs to create a thriving and social experience for the audience that lasted long into the night when the after party took place.

Making a regular stop at Belfast each year now it would be my typical luck that Electric Six don’t return, but in the hopeful circumstance that they do, I’ll be buying a pair instantly. Everyone knows of Electric Six, everyone has heard them, but for those that haven’t seen them live it is definitely worth the small amount to experience their incredible and inexplicable music. Along with Andy D and whichever third musical act they can gather for a night of eclectic madness, you will not be disappointed in the slightest. Joe Smyth, GiggingNI.com