As I was approaching the Empire Music Hall I was expecting some Christmas Carols rocked up and some Christmas festive cheer. I can honestly say I wasn’t disappointed. There were four extremely talented bands that SO:NI (Sounds of Northern Ireland) had lined up for us all here; Smoking Tongue, Cassette, Green Monkey and The Unprotected.
First to hit the stage with a lead singer wearing a Santa hat and at the ready were Smoking Tongue. Their interaction with a gathering crowd was funny; cracking jokes and making light of the situation awaiting them to open the show. With the instruments (including bongos) at hand they launch straight into their set, and with energy and power they came across the music hall with heavy bass riffs, heart pounding drum beats, killer guitar and delivered a performance that was simply fantastic.
Next up, a band fronted by a feisty whiskey-drinking female vocalist that not only has a powerful singing voice, but also demonstrated how to interact with a crowd and have a laugh while performing – Cassette. On stage they delivered, in my eyes, the performance of the night with bluesy guitar riffs, harmonised vocals and easy listening rock music that would be worthy of a headline slot in the future.
Two bands down after two sensational performances and I was thinking the night could only get better. The alcohol at this point was flowing and everyone was getting merry and enjoying themselves both on and off the stage. Then just as I thought I could relax Green Monkey came on for the third performance of the night and proceeded to warp peoples minds with their groovy psychedelic rock and strange, but good, rap vocals.
Everyone in the Empire were watching them with intent to get into the mind of the singer, which I can only describe as a young Anthony Kiedis -fame of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. His timing on each verse or chorus were well timed and kept everyone hanging on his every word. But as the night drew to a close and three of the four acts had been on the stage and performed exceptionally well, everyone was waiting patiently for The Unprotected.
As they hit the stage, they came out with a Santa on guitar and proceeded to come out one at a time. At first I though they were an act like Tenacious D or Steel Panther with their attire as they look like metal meets glam rock but I think it was just a ploy to shock the audience into listening to them. Their riffs, timing and backing vocals were great and, minus the fast paced singing/screaming, were musically fantastic despite being more interested putting on a show and entertaining.
Summing up the night – listening to local talent and having a Christmas Cabaret with a great bunch of people was an enjoyable experience that I would happily take part in again. The vast array of talent that was on show spread out into four different bands was fantastic and overall the performances of all the artists on show was outstanding. Matthew Halliday.