Friday night saw Irish five-piece Hermitage Green make a rare appearance in Belfast, performing at intimate venue The Limelight 2.
An early show time typical of weekend gigs at The Limelight 2 unfortunately meant that much of the band’s audience didn’t make it in time to catch support Lisa Canny. Nonetheless Lisa warmed up those who had got down early with her unique blend of traditional, folk and soul music, complete with faultless vocals.
By the end of Lisa’s set there was still plenty of empty space in the venue, which sadly hadn’t disappeared by the time Hermitage Green took to the stage. The five-piece began with ‘Aisling‘, before vocalist and bass player Barry Murphy joked about how they had definitely sold more tickets than was evidenced by the small crowd. It soon became clear that he was correct, and the early show time had hindered them, as the crowd padded out throughout the set to a figure more typical of the established band’s regular audiences.
One of the most notable things about the five-piece as performers is the vast amount of instruments they play collectively; it was impossible to ignore the collection of instruments lying on stage within easy reach. This versatility also extends vocally, with four of the band giving us faultless harmonies as they performed hit ‘Cloud 9’ and newer song ‘Quicksand.’ Lead singer Dan demanded audience participation for upbeat number ‘Golden Rule,’ and the crowd happily obliged. Those who had been previously seated or leaning against a wall with their pint could now be seen creeping towards the stage to join those already dancing. The folk element of the band’s music makes it impossible to stand still, the energy of Dermot Sheedy and his bodhran in particular is contagious.
It was mentioned several times throughout the set that the band, who boast sold out shows in the UK, Ireland and Australia, have regrettably only been to Belfast a handful of times. Singer Barry chatted to the crowd, explaining that earlier that day they had been asked to play at the Ulster Hall, and had opted to perform one of their own songs along with a cover – a mash up of ‘Ready Or Not’ and ‘Sexual Healing,’ which included a rap about marriage equality. This of course is a very relevant topic at the moment, given the referendum held down South. The band opted to play this for us, aswell as their version of ‘Virtual Insanity’ by Jamiroquai and ‘Teardrop‘ by Massive Attack. These were very well received, as the five-piece are just as endeared for their covers as they are for their original music.
No sooner had the audience lost their inhibitions and started to act like the kind of crowd musicians come to Belfast for did Hermitage Green announce that they had nearly come to the end of their set. Sensing that the crowd were nowhere near ready to leave, the band upped the energy and performed anthemic song ‘Gibson,’ before four of the five-piece left the stage. We were then treated to a solo by Dermot Sheedy and his bodhran, which everyone went absolutely wild for. Dermot was then joined on stage by Darragh Graham and his djembe, leading to a drum battle of sorts which had everyone on their feet. If anyone had previously been wondering why two drummers were necessary in a band this would have confirmed that two drummers are always better than one.
The band played a few more songs including their latest single ‘Jenny,’ which incidentally had been released that day. Despite the hinderance of the early show time Hermitage Green played a stellar set from start to finish, and the eager crowd who weren’t ready to leave will be awaiting the band’s return to Belfast with open arms. Lyndsey Hogarth, GiggingNI.com