You know that if five photographers turn up to a gig from the outset then the line-up must be pretty stellar. That’s what happened last night at Belfast’s Empire Music Hall, where the running order boasted VOKXEN, Allie Bradley and returning local heroine Shauna Tohill under her new guise as Rews.
Poor Jess Edlin, kicking off the bill, must have wondered whether she was at a concert or a photo shoot. However, she performed admirably and with confidence as she played through her opening set of electric guitar-y flair over a catchy percussive backing track.
Allie Bradley is a jewel in the rough, with a clear and powerful voice and a country twang. Starting off with the Taylor Swift-esque (and very wonderful) “Don’t Miss A Moment” and moving on with other original songs, some penned in Nashville (from where she has recently returned), she gave a very accomplished performance. Despite the sometimes-rowdy crowd. Moving from blues to all-out romance, her songs painted pictures of the Deep South with a Northern Irish brush.
If the night had ended after Vokxen‘s set, I think the crowd would have left satisfied. They were bold, they were rocky and pop-y in a style reminiscent of “The Go-Go’s”, and they were having fun. And all this within a few months of forming. Already they have a decent amount of material, filling their half hour set with songs like “Pages“, “Captivated” and their current single, “Somebody“. Their Empire set kicked off a triple-bill weekend: appearing on the “Party In The Square” on Saturday afternoon and then heading over to Sunflowerfest on Sunday. They seemed very up for it, and the crowd was obviously feeling some of their energy, dancing and calling for “one more tune” as the female foursome closed their time.
Thankfully, though, the night was not over, and it was Rews who finished up the evening of musical women. Rews is the new monicker for local singer and musician Shauna Tohill, in her collaboration with multi-instrumentalist Collette Williams. Taking the stage for their first ever show, Shauna on guitars and keys, and Collette behind the drums, they were greeted with very welcoming cheers from faces very used to seeing Shauna on Belfast stages. They formed a great combo, Tohill the Magherafeltian St. Vincent, and Williams providing not only a kicking percussive line, but also some perfectly harmonised backing vocals. Their style is like an energised, upbeat pop, not entirely dissimilar to Silhouette, Shauna’s previous incarnation. They played through their forthcoming singles, “Can You Feel It?“, “Shake Shake” and “Death Yawn” (the latter a curious song about a creepy man in a hostel…), but also included older tunes like “Can’t Keep Up” and the encore number “Rip Up My Heart“.
Throughout, the night was a great success, proving without doubt that Northern Ireland’s women are doing it just as well as the men. The comfortable surroundings of the Belfast Empire was the perfect location for high-quality music that had people alternatively dancing, cheering and singing along. Here’s looking forward to the next arrival of “the girls”. Paul Woods, GiggingNI.com