Belfast offered a selection of legendary acts for Northern Irish gig-goers on Saturday night. Peter Hook of Joy Division in the Limelight, Robert Plant of Led Zepplin in the Ulster Hall and American punk rock pioneers Rocket From The Crypt in the Black Box. Weighing up my options I had to go with RFTC, a band who last visited Belfast fifteen years ago.
Opening the proceedings tonight were fellow San Diegan rockers, The Schizophonics. Turning out tunes in the vein of MC5 and the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, the trio didn’t hold much in common with the headline act but it was clear to see just exactly why Rocket took them over to the UK/Ireland.
Frontman Pat Beers’ explosive live performance was unrivalled by many bands today. Adopting a stage presence that would compete with greats such as Jimi Hendrix and James Brown, the vocalist/guitarist never stopped moving for his duration on stage. Jumping into the splits, while playing the guitar and hitting the mic on each and every queue, Beers’ boundless energy was paralleled by his wife’s calm and collective demeanour on the drums, ying and yang in motion if you will.
Next up was the main attraction, the long-awaited return of Rocket From The Crypt, who last graced Belfast back in May 2002. With tonight’s crowd of a certain age, there’s a good chance many may have been in attendance at their last show all those years ago, so of course, the band and crowd were keen to roll back the years and relive the hits of yesteryear.
Performing under the “Circa: Now!” line up, this was not just a frontman and friends reunion, this was thee lineup that created practically all of the RFTC catalogue and once they kicked off it was quite obvious this was a band that had put in years together.
Opening with “Circa: Now!” classic “Sturdy Wrists,” the band sounded like they were never off the road despite just how infrequently they perform. Following up with “March of Dimes” and “Don’t Darlene,” the relentless introduction had the crowd whipped into a frenzy.
The triple threat of songs continued, this time with the opening three tracks of their 1995 album “Scream, Dracula, Scream!” Six minutes of nostalgia defined; “Middle,” “Born in 69” and “On a Rope”. In saying that, with nostalgia at play, the efforts on stage were genuinely flawless, the sound was immaculate, and the attitude was infectious. Songs that used to be churned out nearly 90 times a year had a new found love and meaning to ageing forty-somethings playing them.
At times, Speedo’s onstage banter did start to grate and be it the long journey to Europe or nearly thirty years sharing the stage with their cocky frontman, some of his fellow band members also looked like they had heard that one before – a few too many times. Nonetheless, once the music started, the band were very much a complete unit and seemed to relish in getting to play the classics they created all those years ago.
Peppering their set with other tunes such as “Hippy Dippy Do,” “Suit City” and “Straight American Slave,” the songs kept coming for what would end up a seventy-minute set. After saying their goodbye’s Speedo declared he didn’t want to stop playing which appeared as a genuine shock to his bandmates, and the band went on to play a spontaneous three-song encore, a welcomed extra for all those squeezing every last minute out of feeling like a twenty-something again.