Review: Ciaran Lavery – The Mac, Belfast
Ciaran Lavery has transitioned from a simple lad from Aghagallon in County Antrim to a touring musician that can easily be compared to the likes of Leonard Cohen and Neil Young. His songs are nothing short of pure poetry. With his passionate lyrics alongside the intimate setting of The Mac, we all knew we were in for a moving night.
The night kicked off with poet, playwright and author Joelle Taylor. She was the best possible person to start the night. Her animated style mixed with her painfully honest words and the gritty themes was simply outstanding. She took the stage with such ease and confidence and even had banter with the crowd in between her poems. Lines such as “Who’s going to write out epitaphs when the poets are gone?” and “you whose body will not fit into prescribed clothes irrespective of your size.” “Flickering girl who traces a map of an undiscovered world on your inner arm, how can they call it self-harm?” Her words are not only empowering as a woman, but also a gritty look into the reality that we so often glance over. She really pulled back the veil and showed us what we choose not to see.
Joelle’s set ended with a huge applause from the crowd as she set the scene perfectly for Ciaran’s anticipated arrival on stage. The set itself was very simple with a painted backdrop and the instruments carefully placed on the stage. Ciaran kicked the show off with “America” from his album Not Nearly Dark. The signature acoustic guitar and gentle vocals eased us into what was going to be a fantastic set. He was joined by a flawless string trio made up of the violin, viola and the cello. This added another dimension to the set and accompanied the guitar wonderfully.
Ciaran built an instant rapport with the crowd after the first song by making jokes about the back drop. To be honest, as soon as he started singing that first song, the backdrop instantly disappeared as the entire focus was on the vocals, guitar and the lyrics. Throughout the set he played a mixture of both old and new songs which was refreshing; you had no idea what would come next. We were even treated to a chilled out rendition of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”. The jokes about Michael Buble during the intro of the song reiterated the intimacy of the gig; everyone in the room was a part of the joke. He had a friendly and relaxed manner throughout.
He finished his initial set with the mesmerising “Return to Form” from the album Let Bad In. The lyrics in this song are so relatable from the perspective of a 23 year old. ‘Everyone’s accelerating. At a speed and I can’t keep up. All of these things they’re selling. I’ve no idea or need for a single one.” His performance reminded me of Kodaline with a raw, husky voice.
The show seemed to be over, when Ciaran made his way back on stage with no back up behind him as he broke out into “Train”. Seeing him play on his own reiterated the simplicity of this gig and showed once again that he does not need to rely on anyone else to get his poetic lyrics across to the crowd.
The final song of the show was the fantastic rendition of Bruce Springsteen’s “Streets of Philadelphia”. If you follow Ciaran on social media you will be aware that he is a Springsteen fan, so I was slightly gutted at the prospect I may not hear this cover tonight. I am a huge fan myself and would normally be skeptical about covers but this was sheer perfection. It was the perfect way to end a completely flawless set.
Ciaran Lavery is fast cementing himself as one of the possible greats of our generation. The juxtaposition of his set and Joelle’s opening was nothing short of fantastic.
Scroll through our photo gallery, by Chris McGuigan, below: