REVIEW: NI Music Prize 2015 – Mandela Hall Belfast

3In spite of the horrendous weather on Saturday night a big crowd gathered at the Mandela Hall in Belfast for the 2015 Northern Ireland Music Awards. The night is a chance to celebrate all that is good in Northern Ireland music and to present two awards for “Album of the Year” and a “Legends Award”, chosen by the Oh Yeah Music Centre.

The evening highlighted the 12 shortlisted albums for the “Album of the Year” award and allowed three of these acts a chance to showcase songs from the album to an expectant audience.

First up was Malojian who played songs from his nominated album “Southlands” to a backdrop of French lights in memory of those who lost their lives in Paris on Friday night. He dedicated the track “Communion Girls” to the people of Paris. In short Malojian produces a beautiful sound with a bunch of heart felt lyrics that never fail to draw you in. This album was definately a deserved nomination for this award.

Northern Ireland Music Prize 2015 - Mandela Hall, Belfast - Photo by Tremaine Gregg.
Northern Ireland Music Prize 2015 – Mandela Hall, Belfast – Photo by Tremaine Gregg.

Next up on the night were The Lost Brothers. Its two guys with guitars, beautiful harmonies, cleverly crafted lyrics and it works perfectly. My personal highlight was “Silver and Gold” from their nominated album “New Songs of Dawn and Dusk”.

The final nominated artists to play on the night were Ciaran Lavery and Ryan Vail. From two entirely different musical backgrounds they combined acoustic with electronica to produce the highly acclaimed album “Sea Legs“. It was both edgy, melodic and beautiful all rolled into one. A fabulous set and like many other nominated albums could easily have walked away with the prize.


6So who did win the 2015 NI Music Prize Award?. Out of a very strong line up of nominations that accloade went to Derry/Londonderry singer songwriter Bridie Monds-Watson, better known as Soak, for her debut album “Before We Forgot How to Dream“. 2015 has been an unbelievable year for this Derry songstress. She has hit the big time with this powerful album, songs drawing on her life experiences, albeit for one so young, that stike a chord with her audience. A worthy winner of this award we now trust she will gain added reward of a Mercury Music Prize to put on her mantlepiece. How far this talented songwriter has come in a very short period of time.

The Oh Yeah Music Centre Legends award has been handed to the likes of Gary Moore, Stiff Little Fingers and Therapy? to name a few and it was very fitting that the name of Neil Hannon was added to this list on Saturday night. The renowned singer song from Fermanagh, who by his own admission may well always only be remembered for writing the theme tune to “Father Ted” and “My Lovely Horse”, has been the constant in The Divine Comedy and more recently The Duckworth Lewis Method where he has woven powerful and touching lyrics into songs that genuinely make you just want to listen.

Neil Hannon was obviously delighted to be now known as a legend and made an acceptance speech that thanked everyone down to the donkey! He just sits on a stool now to deliver his music but did so tonight in a way that showed his passion for writing and playing hasn’t diminished in the last 20 years. He interacts superbly with the audience tonight and it is always a trait in artists that sits well with this reviewer. In someways it shows they do actually care.

The Divine Comedy live at the Mandela Hall for NI Music Prize.
The Divine Comedy live at the Mandela Hall for NI Music Prize.

Highlights of the set on the night for me included “Songs of Love”, “Absent Friends” and probably his third most well known piece, behind the Father Ted theme and “My Lovely Horse”, “National Express”. It was a well deserved honour for an artist who has done his utmost to showcase Northern Ireland music for the last 25 years.

In finishing, the events in Paris the previous evening were never far from the thoughts of the artists or the large crowd in attendance at this years event. We all attended the awards on Saturday night and went home safely to our homes at the end. Unfortunately a large number of people who attended a music gig at the Bataclan Concert Hall in Paris on Friday never returned home and that is unfortunately the sad state of the world today. Music feeds the souls and brings people together like nothing else. May that continue and may those who died on that night Rest in Peace. Michael Ferguson, GiggingNI.com

Northern Ireland Music Prize - Mandela Hall, Belfast - 14th November 2015 - Tremaine Gregg
Northern Ireland Music Prize – Mandela Hall, Belfast – 14th November 2015 – Tremaine Gregg