Under grey and cloudy skies the 40,000 strong crowd gather at Belfast Boucher playing fields for the first, sold out, day of Tennents Vital 2015.
In the lead up to Saturdays show social media was awash with messages from people who had left it too late and were desperately seeking a ticket for the cracking lineup. Its easy to see why with such big hitters on the bill. BURNS, Disciples, John Newman, Ellie Goulding and of course, the man of the moment himself, Calvin Harris.
First up on the stage without much fanfare is BURNS, and he got the crowd kicking off the party with style. Blasting out his club hits ‘Lies’, ‘I Can’t Wait’ and ‘Limitless’ he sets the scene of what is sure to be a massive dance party and even manages to get the crowd to forget about the light rain showers over us.
Next up on the bill are Disciples, a London based trio who create house and electronic music. It’s fair to say that Mr Harris has hand picked the support acts for this gig and has chosen artists he works closely with and so with their deep house they get our appetites whetted for the main act. Playing their hits ‘They Don’t Know’ and ‘How Deep is Your Love’ a big hitter they collaborated with Calvin Harris on the crowd are all on their feet dancing with pints in hand.
John Newman is next on to the Tennents Vital stage and with his Motown influenced soulful sound he’s a welcome and refreshing change to the house music we’ve been treated to. Dressed simply in white jeans and a black tshirt and backed by a brass section and backing singers all in white Newman cuts a striking figure and as he runs through his hits such as ‘Come and Get it’, ‘Not Giving In’ and ‘Losing Sleep’ – its easy to hear his influences like Smokey Robinson and Stevie Wonder in his soulful music.
Newman gives the performance his all and his northern soul style dancing is really something else! When he launches into the phenomenal ‘Love Me Again’ the crowd go wild. Followed up by his collaboration with Calvin Harris, the wonderful ‘Blame’ Newman leaves the now pretty packed Boucher venue wanting more and psyched up for a good time.
By the time Ellie Goulding hits the stage we are all ready to party and eager for a singalong. Dressed all in black and with a full live band she launches into the shimmering ‘Starry Eyed’ from her debut album ‘Lights‘. Being the only woman on the bill Goulding’s appearance seems to encourage a few girls to get moving along to the music a bit less self consciously. On ‘Outside’ her most recent hit with Harris, Ellie exhibits energy and is note perfect despite her fast paced moving around the stage. Buoyed by this she encourages the crowd to show her some moves citing she will personally “call out the best mover”.
On ‘Figure 8′ from her most recent album ‘Halycon‘ which is a more electronic effort and ‘Anything Can Happen’ onlookers are more than happy to join in, singing every word. On ‘I Need Your Love’ yet another Harris/Goulding song there is a sea of hands with everyone in the crowd, myself included, dancing along in anticipation of the main event. Goulding tells us shes so happy to be here again in Belfast as part of such a cool lineup and ends her set on ‘Lights’. Missing out a lot of her more slow paced songs shes clearly chosen to play an upbeat party set and did so with energy and style.
Finally its time for the main event, Calvin Harris, the singer, songwriter, record producer, remixer and DJ extraodinaire. Adam Wiles, as hes know off stage, has come a long way from his shelf stacking days to now being a much sought after producer and DJ. Harris opens up his set with ‘Sweet Nothing’ which features Florence Welch of Florence and the Machine. As the chorus kicks in confetti canons blast off over the dancing crowd and we know we are in for a fantastic show.
With large screens showing visuals behind him you can barely see Harris but I think this is a conscious decision since he stepped back from singing on his tracks and returned to what he does best which is DJ and produce fantastic floorfillers. He introduces himself by shouting “Belfast my name is Calvin Harris and its amazing to be here”. I don’t think there was any doubt in Boucher Playing fields or Belfast as to who was playing here tonight!
Calvin Harris plays hit after hit, ‘Bounce’ his collaboration with Kelis, ‘Under Control’ his track with Alesso and featuring Hurts and ‘Pray to God’ with American indie band Haim and its clear to see why everyone wants a bit of his Midas touch on their records as he turns music to hits. As his set progresses so does the surprises, we get streamers and pyrotechnics to accompany the dance beats and the crowd cheer with the start of each tune. It is a Calvin Harris dance party and is such good fun that even the cynics would be hard pushed to stop their toe tapping.
By the time Harris plays ‘We Found Love’ Rihanna’s song he featured on, the crowd goes WILD. Theres a special affinity with this song as Rihanna filmed the video in Belfast (remember the infamous farmer telling RiRi to cover up? Yes, that one) and it’s clear this song means something different to everyone in the crowd. Everyone is dancing, from the 13 year old short short wearing girls to the middle aged men, this song seems to unite us all. I think Harris should have ended his set on this and let us go out on such a high but he chooses to end it on ‘Eat Sleep Rave Repeat’ and as it draws the night to a close we are treated to a massive firework display. As we all spill out onto the Boucher Road its clear that Calvin Harris certainly brought the party to Belfast and Belfast gave him a run for his money. Sarah McCrossan, GiggingNI.com