REVIEW: NEEDTOBREATHE – Mandela Hall, Belfast
With a crowd ranging from dad’s cooler than most under 20s, groups of excited teens and everyone in between with a heart for good, genuine music NEEDTOBREATHE hit Belfast as the first stop in their UK headline tour.
The rock band with a sweet South Carolina twist graced us with their presence at Mandela Hall on 21st May, with support from Belfast-born Ryan McMullan.
The announcement followed after the success of their acoustic UK tour, where they played an intimate set at Limelight 2 on 3rd December after the release of their latest album ‘Rivers in the Wasteland’ (2014).
The excitement from their last show lingered as a solid crowd arrived in Mandela Hall. With their latest work peaking at #3 on the Billboard 200, 3 other albums under their belt, song ‘More Time’ featuring in PS. I Love You (rom-com ethusiastics squeal in delight) and ‘Feet Don’t Fail Me Now’ becoming Sky Sport’s sound of the Summer and Autumn ad series – a buzz of anticipation grew.
The room was almost full to capacity, with a nice amount of space to breathe (because we NEEDTO…right?!) without giving those in front a little tickle. We were greeted by support act Ryan McMullan whose acoustic set established the perfect vibe and rallied up the crowd from a mere ‘excited’ to feelin’ it, with hand clapping, shy head bopping and foot stomping all around.
Soon after NEEDTOBREATHE stormed on stage with the help of some strobe lighting to push the audience to vigorous body bouncing in no time. There was no stop for chats as the band instantly pushed into their first two songs, delivering an entrance that had everyone hooked from the start.
If the lighting wasn’t enough to catch your eye and keep it there then those providing the music certainly were, with lead vocalist Bear Rinehart rockin’ a cowboy hat/leather jacket combo taking the former from relatively uncool to just RIGHT.
After the second song the band jumped into their hellos and it was apparent from the very beginning that the four man band are incredibly genuine and down to earth, motivated by their passion for music. Bear explained to the crowd how the band prefer to do more singing than talking at their gigs, with delivering music to fans clearly their primary focus.
With the pause between the second and third song the band referred back to their last time here, getting a surge of shouts from fans who were clearly not newcomers to their live performances. They took from the success of this gig and carried through the acoustic vibe for their third song ‘Wasteland’ from their latest album.
Setting up the song with some context they explained how they were on the brink of a break up and it is reminiscent of a difficult time for them as a band. This combined with dim lighting and low background instruments set the perfect atmosphere to welcome the swift change from an upbeat entrance to a very personal, intimate vibe that was incredibly appreciated by the singing crowd. It is the more intimate songs such as this where we see the band’s Christian beliefs providing a very light, non-intrusive foundation for their music.
The tambourine took the crowd straight back to bouncin’ as the band stormed into the next song with a booming anthemic intro characteristic to their songs, delivering their rock sound with a country twist with the help of intertwining keyboard.
The band’s commitment to their music brings an equally as genuine crowd who were incredibly chill yet just as vibrant and excited when it was appropriate.
This was perfectly illustrated by the band’s choice to perform song ‘Washed by the Water’ with no microphones, backed by just two acoustic guitars and a tambourine. Bear requested beforehand that the crowd stay as silent as possible until he get them to join in – a request that can go either way.
There’s normally always one dedicated totally bringing the banter and thus ruining a performance like this for everyone. However, this was a crowd here purely for the music and so what was delivered was a beautiful rendition of the song with an entranced audience providing the chorus.
The band were incredibly appreciative of the audience’s welcome and participation, making sure to preach their love for Belfast and how its friendly atmosphere makes it ‘feel just like home’ (we’re all pretty dead on aren’t we?)
NEEDTOBREATHE sang the crowd to the end of their set and it was concluded on a perfect note. At that, they thanked us for coming out, bowed their stylish bodies and waved their South Carolina hands before making their way to Glasgow as the second stop on their UK tour. Clare Hogarth, GiggingNI.com