The intimate crowd in Belfast’s Empire Music Hall in Botanic were gathered around circular tables awaiting the return of Janet Devlin.
The Gortin singer was performing as part of her ‘My Opium Tour’ and the gig in front of her Northern Irish followers was one of her last, before her homecoming tour in Omagh.
A wide range of ages watched as the acoustic set of opening act, local boy Brad Mcvicker turned to the main event. Janet came out to big cheers from the audience and kicked off the night with ‘Things We Lost In The Fire’ and a cover of ‘Time After Time,’ before addressing the audience.
Although the 22-year-old is five years into her career, she admitted to the crowd: “Every time I’m on home soil I always feel like no one is going to turn up. I really appreciate when people come to shows as that takes planning and I understand some people didn’t want to come, they were dragged here by their friends. So here’s to those friends, hopefully by the end of the night I will have won you over, and if not… soz.”
She then went on to ask if anyone in the room spoke Gaelic, wishful thinking that someone might understand the second half of her next song, called ‘Whiskey Lullabies,’ a song taken off her second album ‘Running With Scissors.’
The quiet room accompanied her signature, quirky vocals perfectly, with her two man band, one on guitar and one on keys, helping her along.
Another cover followed, with her saying: “No tour of mine is complete without a Red Hot Chilli Peppers song.”
She admitted that she came to Belfast to see the boys play in Boucher Fields as part of Tennents Vital in the summer, to which she got massive cheers, before playing ‘Dani California.’
She then treated the crowd to a new song called ‘Chandelier’, written for an upcoming film in which she has her debut acting role, and then another cover of ‘Friday, I’m In Love.’
The gig got quite personal then, with the singer admitting: “I write songs for me. It makes me feel better. I haven’t released this next one on any album or EP because this person hasn’t forgiven me yet. I was in the wrong, so sorry if this gets emotional. This is called ‘I Lied To You.’” The song was beautiful and hopefully whoever it’s about forgives her so we can all hear a studio version someday.
Without having to talk more about the subject, Janet dived right into ‘House of Cards’ to a murmur of recognition from the crowd. The single started off acoustically before kicking off in the second chorus.
Latest single ‘Outernet’ followed, with a short story of how it reached #7 in the physical charts, with a laugh about it being wedged between the Petshop Boys and ABBA. Another laugh went up when she told the audience an American journalist thought she was singing about an otter net.
For the track, Janet brought out her ukulele called Eugene: “We have a very turbulent relationship because I don’t give him very much attention.”
‘Christmas Kiss’ followed, with a charming story about how Janet wrote the song this time last year when she was spending her fourth year single.
“There should be a huge sign above my head saying ‘undateable,’” she laughed to the audience, “I will write a song about you. Or an entire album as my ex-boyfriend found out.
“I didn’t ask Santa Clause for world peace. I asked for a Christmas kiss. Don’t take this literally, as some guy in England did. After the show he tried not once, not twice but three times to give me a Christmas kiss. It got progressively more awkward.”
With that, her band mate chipped in with a “he’s in jail now,” to another laugh from the crowd.
She then broke into the song that made her blow up almost overnight, a cover of Elton John’s ‘Your Song’ which she sang for her X Factor audition. She admitted the song changed her life, although she wished she did write the song as if she did she’d be on an island sunning herself somewhere.
Thinking of that, the difference between that shy little girl and this confident woman is amazing, and not just her fiery red hair.
Another Christmas song followed, a self-penned track called ‘Wake Up It’s Christmas,’ which was aimed at anyone in the room who was dumped close to the holidays.
Audience participation was required for another cover, this time ‘Living On A Prayer’ by Bon Jovi, her go-to drunken karaoke song. Janet asked the audience to interact with their drunk part of their brain, “very similar to the toddler part. Falling over. Spilling food. Same thing.”
She bowed out with debut single ‘Wonderful,’ and her encore was an emotional cover of X Factor favourite ‘Hallelujah.’
She told the audience that she promised herself she would never sing this, “because [she loves it] with every fibre of [her] being.” However, she decided to change her mind as the world is a scary place and with all going on it, she’s happy that the audience could all come together to enjoy a night of music, one of the last things she finds sacred.