LIVE: The Beards – The Black Box, Belfast
“We are The Beards. We have beards. We like beards. We’d like to welcome everyone with a beard.” No prizes for guessing the subject of focus for the evening. Their opening statement establishes the theme of the night; the eager appreciation of facial hair through the medium of song. Touring throughout Europe on their “Euro-bout to Grow a Beard” Tour, the comedic 4 Piece are spreading the virtues of facial hair on an international scale.
Warming up the stage in the same manner a set of whiskers would warm your chin are Belfast trio The HardChargers. Their blend of dirty blues roots and electrified psychobilly engages the crowded Black Box nicely. With lead work reminiscent of Rory’s Irish Tour and proficient use of the washboard their performance shadows that of Bob Log III and Seasick Steve as far as gritty demeanor is concerned.
Musically their set progresses without much deviation from the gristly aural onslaught though this isn’t a performance concerned with showcasing the groups sensitivity to genre definition. Best enjoyed with a bourbon or twelve, the group make no apologies for their scuzzy disposition, and wrap their set up with their newest release, “Too Little Too Late” featuring a change from resonator to standard electric and from washboard to full kit. Perhaps a herald of what’s to come from the group in coming months?
After a short interval the lights dim, the sound of hundreds of voices chanting Beards! Beards! Beards! Is pumped into the venue, and in moments the majority bearded crowd follow suit. In a flash the grizzly-faced 4 piece have made the stage their vantage point from which to preach their fuzzy gospel.
From the offset the band prioritize crowd interaction, to the extent that the front row of beard enthusiasts (aptly named the VIB section by the band) would grasp at the beards of the band in admiration; a behaviour that is only encouraged by the band who on occasion take glee in admiring each others.
They open with I like Beards, and with lyrical content such as “Beards are good, beards are great, they look so good on your face” it’s evident that comedic value is prioritized over lyrical content, though nobody’s in attendance with hope of scouting the next Dylan.
With songs such as Got Me A Beard, and the anthemic Born With a Beard the simple yet memorable lyrical content means the crowd’s contribution never wanes, and the band never fails to engage in between.
Those in attendance with the misfortune of the inability to grow a set of whiskers spent the night on the receiving end of ridicule, with frontman Johann Beardraven prompting bearded members of the crowd to stand in front of those without, and prompted ridicule of their assistant Michael who they employed as an assistant on the basis that they wouldn’t be comfortable telling a bearded man what to do.
Lyrically the band are akin to their New Zealand neighbours Flight of the Conchords and comparison could be made to Tenacious D as far as their musical arrangements and content are concerned. Beardraven switches between keyboard and saxophone throughout the set, and for the encore adopts a keytar for Sex With a Bearded Man, a move that sends the group into The Darkness and Steel Panther territory.
Throughout the performance the entirety of the 4 piece focus on keeping crowd interaction a priority, going to the lengths of handing out awards for best and worst beards (Assuming that the recieving party of the best beard ought to be the mayor of Beardfast) and rubbing beards with members of the crowd. With three full length albums and counting, the gospel of The Beards is alive and well, and based on the response in the Black Box, newly deemed Beardfast remains an advocate of their message. Jamie Wright.