REVIEW: The 4 of Us – Lyric Theatre, Belfast

2.The4OfUs2014-I have to confess that when ‘The 4 of Us’ started out life, as, an actual four piece, I was somewhere in the middle of my primary education, with a whole world of music still to discover.

Nevertheless, even I wouldn’t have escaped the huge Irish radio airplay given to the song ‘Mary’ in 1989, that would see The 4 of Us’ first album go double platinum in Ireland.

You might be forgiven, that when going to see a band called ‘The 4 of Us’ you may expect to see more than 2 bodies on stage. But no, having ranged in numbers from 2 to 5 over the years, the Murphy brothers, Declan and Brendan have remained the only constant and it was just 3 guitars and a stomp box ‘fashioned from a piece of wood, a piece of carpet and a towel’ that shared the stage with them. A lot of time has passed since those once young boys penned ‘Mary’ and over the last 25 years or so the band has quietly built an inspiring back catalogue of more intelligent work, largely underrated in the Irish music scene.

Kicking off with a melodic and up tempo crowd pleaser – ‘She Hits Me’, Brendan’s voice holds up well during the high notes of the chorus, the acoustic guitar playing is impressive and the stomp box does just about enough to add a little weight to the backing. Brendan reminds the audience that their last Belfast gig was in The Empire and they are now in the ‘posh end’ of town. As the set moves on I can’t help but think that the largely empty stage engulfs the 2 men slightly and that perhaps The Empire would indeed, be a more fitting venue. That’s not to say ticket sales were anything to be ashamed of though, as from where I was sitting, most seats (at £20 a pop) seemed to be filled.

Brendan’s stories about skipping Mass as a teenager, living in Dublin and meeting old loves accompany the softness of the beautiful ‘Gospel Choir’ and poignant ‘Blue’, evoking feelings of nostalgia within us listeners. Several new songs are introduced from a forthcoming album and we get a couple of covers (The Beatles Blackbird no less).  ‘U Make Me Feel’ makes us all feel a little bit happy, and as the second half of the set draws to a close things shift up a gear. A sing along is the order of the day with ‘Drag My Bad Name Down’ and it is of course the unavoidable ‘Mary’ that draws the biggest reaction of the night.

Whether the band ever manage to recapture their celebrity of the early 90s is perhaps unlikely, but it would appear that there is still a lot of love for ‘The 4 of Us’ north and south of the border and for this undoubtedly talented 2 piece, who once beat out U2 to win an Irish Music Award, perhaps a different type of success awaits. Jude Malone, GiggingNI.com – @jmalonecreative