Review: Don Broco – Mandela Hall, Belfast
Hertford rock band Don Broco returned to Belfast promoting their highly anticipated, top 5 album ‘Technology’. Since their debut in 2012, the band have developed a devoted fanbase, a reputation for intense live shows and a discography full of anthems, ensuring the Tuesday night show was going to be an unforgettable experience.
Support came from Irish pop punk band Apella and Scottish rock band The LaFontaines. I first came across Apella supporting Keywest at the Limelight last month, in which their high energy anthems such as ‘Graceful Dancer’ and ‘We Met at a Party’ went down well with the Keywest crowd. It was massively impressive that they were equally as well received in such a radically different scene. Frontman Dara Quilty, best known as a broadcaster, worked the crowd brilliantly throughout and had them completely on side by the end of their set.
Apella were followed by The LaFontaines, described during the set by frontman Kerr Okan as “Scottish people making futuristic music”. I was fascinated to see how the band’s sound, combining elements of rock and hip hop, translated into the live setting. They didn’t disappoint, with an electrifying stage presence and a rapturous response from the crowd.
Frontman Okan had complete control over the crowd, increasing the energy levels throughout and building excitement for the main act of the night. At the end of the set he claimed the final song would ‘convert’ the audience into fans of The LaFontaines, and there is no doubt that this is the case for much of the crowd. The band announced that they will be returning to Belfast later in the year, and if this supporting slot was anything to go by, it will be a must-see.
Following the electrifying set by The LaFontaines, the crowd was now ready for Don Broco. Soon, the band emerged on the stage, and went straight into one of their heaviest live tracks ‘Pretty’ which immediately set the tone of what was to come. The energy levels were sent immediately through the roof and the crowd exploded. Lead singer Rob Damiani demonstrated his powerful vocals and dynamic stage presence straight from the off, proving why he is so highly rated as a frontman. It was clear from just the first couple of songs that Don Broco’s reputation of hosting explosive live shows is entirely justified.
A collection of tracks from the new album were then played, with ‘Everybody’ and ‘Stay Ignorant’ in particular receiving massive reactions, highlighting the band’s ability to write instantly infectious anthems. This was followed by tracks from 2015’s Automatic, a significantly more pop influenced album than their latest effort. Fan favourites such as the title track ‘Automatic’, as well as ‘Superlove’ and ‘You Wanna Know’ served as highlights of the entire set, each of which featured an explosive and catchy chorus, every word of which were echoed by the crowd.
It was interesting that many of the tracks, whether old or new, received a similar reaction from the crowd, showing the dedication of the Don Broco fanbase. The energy was somehow raised to an even higher level with tracks such ‘Technology’, ‘Porkies’ and ‘Greatness’. It was, however, one of Don Broco’s earliest singles, 2008’s ‘Thug Workout’ which was met with the most jubilation from the crowd, leading to the formation of a press-up circle pit. A personal highlight of the set was ‘Nerve’, which slowed the set down somewhat, showing a slightly different side of Don Broco, while still maintaining the elements which make them who they are.
Following the fan favourite ‘Money Power Fame’ and a live debut for ‘Something to Drink’, the band left the stage, however fans were well aware of the hits that were to come. The band returned onstage without frontman Damiani, with drummer Matt Donnelly showcasing his vocal ability in the opening lines of ‘Come Out to LA’, before Damiani remerged with some of his most powerful vocals of the night. It’s clear to see why the track has become possibly the biggest single off the new album, showcasing all the attributes which are associated with Don Broco, with pop-influenced verses and a belting chorus. The night closed with ‘T-Shirt Song’, a track which lives up to it’s title, with the vast majority of the audience swinging their shirts around their head for the entirety of the song. The lyrical content, ‘there’s only one song left, no time for no regrets’, made it the perfect song to end what had been an intense and captivating experience.
The band made clear that the wait for their return to Belfast wouldn’t be as long as it was last time, and with a clear dedicated fanbase (some of which camping outside hours before the doors opened) their next headline show is guaranteed to be an equally great experience.