REVIEW: Gone All Year & R51 – Mandela Hall, Belfast

goneallyearDown in the depths of the Queens Students Union, the belly of the popular student drinking hole, Mandela Hall has played host to some of the world’s best acts, ranging from Jake Bugg, Bastille and Passenger.

A venue that doesn’t boast the largest crowd capacity, nor the loudest of speakers, but makes up for it with an abundance of natural raw energy waiting to be tapped into by any band willing and able to rock a Belfast crowd. 

Gone All Year took their turn to stand where so many other well known bands had done so before them, wielding their six strings, keyboard, drum kit and best pairs of matching skinny jeans, the local boys held nothing back and left nothing to chance when accepting the opportunity to play on such an established stage.

Backing up the headline slot also presented us with another home grown talent, in the shape of R51. The band delivered an electrifying opening set, filled with electronic sounding alternative pop rock, that threw out some big hitting rocking choruses, alongside hypnotic guitar solos and riffs, all while being glossed over by some massive sounding effects on top. A set that from start to finish was played out like it was being performed in front of thousands of fans, brimming with real energy, passion and a great buzz to start off the night, R51 didn’t disappoint, and lived up to their growing reputation from start to finish.


It came time for the headline act to take to the stage, lights cut, stage set, entrance music ringing out…Gone All Year had arrived. The band blasted into an energetic, youthful sounding vibrant performance that showcased original tracks such as ‘Heartbreak Mastermind’, ‘Grey’  and ‘Hotel Room Confessions’, alongside what turned out to be a brilliant rendition of The Killers ‘Smile Like You Mean It’ thrown in for some fun.

The set had it all, a great set list of songs that held onto your attention and refused to let go, a thunderous rolling drum solo jammed in the middle to give the loudest of the band his opportunity to rattle the stage alone, and some classic arm waving, sing along chances for the fans. A simple, yet brilliant surprise deployed by the band came with lead singer Conor McCaffrey and Steven O’Hagan taking to a smaller, isolated side stage in the middle of the crowd to perform an original acoustic number titled ‘Audrey Hepburn’, that softened the rowdy atmosphere before hurling us back into the show up on the main stage.

It was in all, an absolutely brilliantly choreographed set by the lads in matching outfits, everything played was done so to provoke a response, to showcase what they had to offer, to prove they are worthy to play on the same stage as the likes of Jake Bugg and The Kooks. “Gone All Year”, remember the name, look out for their next gig, because with performances like that, surely it won’t be long before they are snapped up by a label, and seeing them for so cheap will be a thing of the past! Niall Donnelly, GiggingNI.com