If you were looking for a great night of music on the 28th of March, then the Black Box was your answer. A venue known for hosting some of the greatest, most diverse acts around the Northern Ireland music scene, truly, if not more than ever, lived up to its impressive reputation with two acts that although where very different from one another, both matched up equally when comparing levels of raw talent and musical prowess.
The venue itself was set up brilliantly, those lucky enough to have bought a ticket where confronted with, once the lights had been turned off, a candle lit room, everyone was met with their own tables and chairs, allowing a mellow, comfortable vibe to take hold of the audience, a vibe in which coupled perfectly with the music that the two acts provided. This wasn’t a night to dance or go crazy like one may do at a rock n roll gig, this was a chance to sit with a few drinks and not just listen, but appreciate the talent on show.
The night was kicked off by the massive sounds of Paul Dunmall (Saxophone), accompanied by Tony Bianco on Drums, playing some of the classic John Coltrane tracks in which have helped to define and influence so many within the Jazz music scene. Before I go any further however in describing the immense talent in which was on show, I must first confess to you the reader, my knowledge and experience within the world of Jazz music is one in which before seeing Paul Dunmall and Tony Bianco on stage, went no further than the names of Miles Davis and Mary Lou Williams, this however I aim to change after what I experienced during this gig. John Coltrane once said, when talking about people listening to his music, “I want to speak to their souls”, and last night his music surely did so whilst channelling through Paul and Tony on stage. Paul Dunmall showed his expert, masterful skills wielding the saxophone, showing an uncompromising technically brilliant ability to have every note in which flew out off the stage filled with passion. Pauls unquestionable talent was further enhanced with the partnership of the pure excellence shown by Tony Bianco on drums, his free rolling drum technique filled with polyrhythmic excursions, accompanied with his seemingly effortless freestyle roaming explorations on the drum kit launched the set to another level, leaving this writer and those around me in constant awe of the brilliance on show. The entire set was overall a fitting tribute to the Jazz legend John Coltrane, and I for one feel privileged, as I’m sure the others in the audience would agree, to have been able to experience such an impressive, flawless set.
Once Paul and Tony had finished wowing the audience, it was now the time for Richard Dawson to take to the stage. Richard from the very beginning showed great crowd interaction, feeding off the comments shouted out by members of the audience to create a friendly light hearted comic atmosphere, making us feel not just like spectators, but part of the performance. Putting the jokes to one side however, when Richard began to sing and play his acoustic guitar, his voice, and every note he plucked, instantly grabbed your unwavering attention. Richard played through a set of songs showing off his truly unique talent, every lyric in which he sung was filled with a hauntingly beautiful, sometimes seemingly painful passion that dragged the crowd into an inescapable state of being that had everyone in the filled room not just listening to the music, but feeling it possess them. As I dragged my attention away from the stage to see how the crowd were reacting (no easy feat I tell you), I seen a room filled with mesmerized eyes and ear to ear smiles, a room filled with pure enjoyment and absolute love for Richard, on his first visit, he had truly won the hearts of those there representing Belfast. As his set came to a close he again showed a great talent for crowd interaction as he had everyone in the room clap and stomp their feet along to provide him with the tune for his final song, making us lucky enough to have been there part of the performance.
Overall this night showcased the talents of two very different sets of artists, within two very different music genres, allowing us to discover musical gems, possibly opening our minds to new forms of music, or just reaffirming the affection for the music that one may follow, be it Jazz or the sounds of more Acoustic Folk, the only word I could use to describe the acts on show in the Black Box on the 28th of March is ‘wow’. The night showed clearly that if you look in the right places, Belfast, and the rest of Northern Ireland is clearly filled with brilliant opportunities to discover amazing music. Niall Donnelly, GiggingNI.com