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Review: The 4 of Us: Skylite Room, Warrenpoint

More than an hour before stage time, Warrenpoint’s Skylite Room was already packed to the rafters. The 10ft tall poster outside heralded the coming of Newry’s finest, The 4 of Us.  An excited buzz skittered around the capacity crowd and when they took to the stage just after 10pm, for once the band’s name actually made sense as Brendan and Declan Murphy, John McCandless and Peter McKinney made an all too rare appearance in the full band line-up.

The kick off, Sunlight, was a welcome diversion from the dreary, sleety night outside.  Peter McKinney left us in no doubt as to why he is the “go to” drummer for so many Northern Irish musicians. He’s spectacular. Bass player John McCandless too is exciting to watch, he just oozes cool.

Their UK top 30 hit She Hits Me was next and it sounds astonishingly good with the full band. This was a high octane show and it was clear there’d be no interval tonight – the audience would never have let them leave the stage.  Fresh from a show in London the night before, Brendan’s performance was not short on energy and the buoyant Just A Drop was really entertaining.

Songs from the most recent album Sugar Island were interspersed with old favourites such as Gospel Choir and Maybe It’s You.  Being as we were just down the road from their home town, this was an audience full of friends and fellow Newryites and so the Sugar Island songs which were inspired by growing up in the town were received particularly well – none more so than the title track. Fans will know the story of the “bridge of sorrows” in the town’s centre and its reputation as a break-up spot for young lovers. Tonight though the tale had particular significance given that the young couple who’d inspired it were in the audience. Hilariously dedicating the song to Louise and Martin, Brendan told us that they were each there with their respective spouses.

The joyous Boomtown was a treat for fans. This little trinket from the Man Alive album rarely gets an airing since it’s not on the setlist when Brendan and Declan perform as a two piece.  Then came the funkiest version of Sensual Thing showcasing Declan’s extraordinary guitar skill and with both Murphy brothers demonstrating their best moves.  This song is always a winner but tonight it was especially clear just how much the band enjoy performing it.  Sustaining the funky vibe, they followed up with Little Things.

During the live shows, You Make Me Feel gives Brendan an opportunity to wander off into spontaneous improvised lyrics about the venue and the audience.  Tonight’s epilogue was strewn with local references, namechecking local venues they’d frequented in their youth and lamenting the difficulty of getting a taxi to take them home to Newry after a Saturday night out in “the Point”.  The nostalgia continued when they revisited their debut album Songs for the Tempted, playing Jolene and One Strong Hammer.

Soundcheck at the Skylight Room

Then came that point in the evening many fans look forward to – Declan’s turn to sing! A slick mash-up of Working in the Coalmine and Coconut gave the audience what they wanted.  It’d be nice to hear Lightning Paul one of these days, but as usual Declan’s performance went down a storm.

The perennial Drag My Bad Name Down threatened to lift the roof right off the Skylite Room. Everyone in the room was on their feet for this one, which sounds as exhilarant today as it did in the early ’90s when it used to bang out of speakers every Saturday night in every nightclub across Northern Ireland.   Of course they ended with Mary, before the encore comprised of two gems, Washington Down and James Taylor’s Traffic Jam.

Having seen The 4 of Us in Whelan’s a couple of weeks ago, I couldn’t have expected that a gig in a fledgling venue like the Skylite Room could have matched that show in one of Ireland’s premier music spots. In fact, it surpassed it. The appreciative audience, the fun the boys themselves were clearly having, the electric atmosphere all made for one of the best nights of live music I can remember.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Writer for Gigging NI. My tastes are varied; began listening to the folksy standards of Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell and indie favourites like The Cure and The Smiths, all of which permeated my formative years in the 80s. My first gig was Prince in Cork in 1990. The 90’s also included The Trip to Tip in ’91 & ’92, and gigs by Van Morrison, David Byrne, The Verve, Counting Crows, John Prine, Morrissey, Chris Smither and many more. The noughties brought James Taylor, Squeeze, New York Dolls, Neil Young, Arlo Guthrie amongst others; though a highlight was an opportunity to see lifelong hero David Bowie on his final tour, Reality in 2003. This decade I’ve had the chance to see everything from Erasure, Johnny Marr and They Might be Giants to Thirty Seconds to Mars, Aslan, Crosby and Nash, Georgie Fame, Paolo Nutini, John Grant. Latterly there's been a pretty serious obsession with Rufus Wainwright, and the Wainwrights in general to be honest. In the last few years, I’ve also been enjoying a lot more of our home grown talent, with the likes of Duke Special, Brian Kennedy, VerseChorusVerse, The Bonnevilles, Tony Villiers and the Villains, The Hardchargers, and The Four of Us – so I guess you could say no common thread to speak of!