Walking through Cathedral Quarter in Belfast, a place rich in history with some of the oldest buildings and thoroughfares still retained to this day, and I come across the Black Box, our venue for the evening.
Northern Ireland has a rich history in giving us great bands & musicians from Stiff Little Fingers to Van Morrison, right the way to Vivian Campbell and even Duke Special.
This evening, in a sold out venue at The Black Box, we were treated to two fantastic performers in Stephen McCartney and Ryan McMullan.
Stephen McCartney took the stage first. With his guitar in hand, he began to sing to a packed Black Box and instantly commanded the attention of the crowd with his (almost) folk music.
Between songs he began telling stories about The Farriers – his previous band – and also a song he had wrote about being drunk when younger on ‘challenge beer’ in the song ‘Faded Better Days’.
Just before launching into a new song titled ‘Hey I’m Stephen’, which gathered a few laughs from the crowd, he then proceeded to explain why it was titled that and that the title of it “just stuck.”
After that, he painted a picture of a party he attended and was overlooking what he described as ‘the worst view in the world, yet its things like that you remember the most!’ Before he launched into ‘Over The March Winds’ which combined great vocals and, like throughout his set, excellent tones from the guitar to compliment the lyrics.
Next to take to the stage, and start his set by walking through the crowd singing A Capella, a fantastic cover of ‘The Lakes of Pontchartrain’ which made the entire venue go silent and take notice – enter Ryan McMullan.
Coming off the back of supporting Foy Vance on a European Tour, he thanked everyone for coming out and selling out, not one night but, two nights at the Black Box, Belfast.
After paying homage to the late George Michael by covering ‘Last Christmas’ he launched into songs of his own including the tracks ‘A Winters Coat’, ‘Oh Susanna’ and ‘Ghosts’.
Before he played the latter, he was busy enjoying some laughs with the audience and played an old song of his called ‘Mary’ stating that ‘Ghosts’ was effectively where he killed off the fictional character he created.
Throughout the night the crowd fell on every note he played and every word he spoke or sang. Songs like ‘Holdin’ Me Down’, his covers of ‘The Streets of New York’ and ‘Black is the Colour’ transitioning into ‘Maniac 2000′ got the crowd singing cheerfully.
It is a great thing to see local talent flourish, to sell out a venue for two nights in a row and transitioning from playing in bars & pubs to main stages around the world is a simply outstanding achievement.