“Hello, Belfast. How you doing?” Rag’n’Bone Man addressed the shivering crowd in Custom House Square last night. Despite the threatening rain, thousands of eager fans collected to hear the English soul singer.
However, in contrast to the fans who attended the likes of George Ezra, Kasabian and Kodaline over the past few weeks, the audience were an older crowd, consisting of sensible women in hats, coats and scarves like it was the middle of winter, and men even sporting the singer’s signature beard.
The night started with ‘Reuben’s Train,’ a song taken from his fourth EP Wolves. His traditional bear-growl voice sounded great over a big band production including heavy trumpets and drums. “You’ll see me doing a lot of smiling tonight, this is my very first time in Belfast. So, thank you, thank you, thank you for coming out. It’s a beautiful thing to do.”
Even though he has only released the one album, Human, which reached number #1 in the UK in 2017, he has also released five EPs between 2012 to 2015. Some of which appeared in his set list last night.
Three back up singers joined the Sussex-man, who also raps along with his signature singing voice. The balconies on the apartments and offices around the square were also packed with people interested in the free show, one of the advantages of having a concert in the heart of the city and not in a field.
For being a big name in the industry and an even bigger cusser, he was oddly quiet during the first half of the set. Even admitting to the audience: “I get a little bit overwhelmed at the start, I do loosen up soon,” before breaking into ‘Your Way Or The Rope.’ A song he co-wrote with Dan Smith, the lead vocalist from British indie band Bastille. Another song the two co-wrote together is ‘Lay My Body Down,’ which was one of the first songs he put on the album. “We have a love of writing miserable songs together.”
A heckler then got his comeuppance as the 33-year-old singer invited him onto the stage, got given a drink and then asked to pick the next song from the set list on the stage. He picked Rag’n’Bone Man’s second most successful single to date, ‘Skin,’ in which he gave an acoustic performance to cheers from the crowd, despite admitting that he didn’t plan on playing it so early on.
Another surprise to the crowd came from the back this time, as a man got down on one knee to his girlfriend, to another cheer from around them, as Rag’n’Bone Man sang: ‘It was almost love,’ clearly not for these two love birds. “Did any of you buy my album?” he asked the crowd, to be met with screams. “Not just my Mum then,” he joked, ignoring the fact that the album was nominated for British Album of the Year at this year’s Brit Awards.
He goes on to say that he tries to out do himself each time he writes a new song, but he doesn’t feel like he can ever top ‘Perfect,’ despite hardly anyone knowing it. Naturally, he bowed out with ‘Human‘ which won a Brit Award for Best British Single this year, and cemented his career since he won the Critics’ Choice Award last year.
Everyone left the square after enjoying their well earned Friday night, with the chill in the air coming from his eery vocals as well as the night air.