Its just gone 8.30, the sun has dared to show its face in Belfast, and the public are taking their time to make their way to the giant tent sitting in Custom House Square that serves as the Marquee for the 2018 Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival.
Under a starry canvas roof, The Correspondents take to the stage – producer Chucks sits behind a box of electronic wizardry, a fairly low-key accompaniment to frontman Mr Bruce. Bruce cuts a striking figure – lean, slick, and adorned in a tight white and black outfit that demands everyone’s attention throughout. This may only be a duo, but their sound and energy fills the room.
Bruce’s precise phrasing prompts expectations of properness and order that are swiftly dispatched by pulsing beats and boundlessly energetic prancing. He’s a whirling dervish, leaping and sliding across the stage, twisting, turning and kicking in a non-stop one-man-rave. At the opening, unsure what to expect, the audience stood some distance away, behind an imaginary safety line, but once they are infected by his dance moves, they move closer, gradually joining in on the party.
This ball of energy defies a simple definition – drawing influence from a century of popular music, a cake mix of electro swing, hip hop and dance, and topping it all off with a fiery jungle heavy cherry.
This 40 minute set is as solid an introduction to the group as one could wish for. There’s material from across their decade together – nods to their electro jazz origins in an epic reworking of Benny Goodman’s “Sing Sing Sing”, the anthemic protest to gentrification and redevelopment “Whatever Happened To Soho?“, and a selection of tracks from the new album Foolishman including “Finally” and “Inexplicable“.
Its hard to believe is been 14 years since The Go! Team bounced into our lives with their debut platter Thunder, Lightning, Strike and its cacophony of influences. With the recent release of their fifth LP Semicircle its clear that the story is a long way from over.
In contrast to the support act, Go! Team give us a very busy stage, fitting for a group that blend funk, rock and hip hop in a distinctive full sound. There’s hefty doses of call and response, repeating grooves, and seldom a slow moment. The busy crowd are on board from the off, bouncing with the pounds of the dual drum kits.
In the last decade and a half, the Go! Team sound hasn’t changed much, and new songs like “May Day“, “She’s Got Guns“, “Semicircle Dance” all fit comfortably into the same sonic space as “Ladyflash” and “Get It Together” (who knew recorders could be so cool). There’s a real sense of fun, and accomplishment. The multi-instrumental abilities of various members becomes evident as players switch instruments mid-song – something I hadn’t quite appreciated before – the talent drips across the stage as the sweat increases.
For the most part, the show is fronted by Ninja – athletic, confident, encouraging – chanting and rapping and singing her way through the set. There’s something of the New York hip-hop scene channelled in her input, and aesthetically one might assume this was an American group from the 80s rather than the naughties Brits that they really are.
Weakest are the numbers fronted by the other (as yet anonymous) singer – I loved the look, but there was something flat about her vocals that took me out of the zone. Maybe she had an off night. Maybe I’m just not getting it.
The CQAF audience though seemed to love every moment, applauding generously and enjoying the encore. Delightfully, members of the Team manned the merch stand after the show to mingle with fans – demonstrating their warmth and willingness to engage directly with their supporters. The whole experience has ensured I’ll be catching up on the back catalogue in the next few days.
For this reviewer, the support edged into first place overall, but on balance a well put together show, with two acts that fitted surprisingly well together.