Review: Fatherson & Support – Voodoo Belfast
Fatherson are kicking off their tour here in Belfast and it is their first ever headline show in the city.
Forming in 2010 the band have just released their third album ‘Sum of All Your Parts’ and are keen to take it out on the road after putting so much time and love into the songs.
Tonight, the support act are the city’s own Blue Americans – a two piece made up of Kris Platt and Daniel Morgan-Ball bolstered onstage tonight with two other members. Formed from the ashes of More Than Conquerors, they describe themselves as ‘leftfield pop.’ They have catchy hooks with an easy funk sound, and songs like ‘Ceremonies’ are multi-layered and slow burning.
At times, Platt’s vocals and each song’s vibe remind me of Scritti Politti and a bit of Prefab Sprout especially on ‘Free Champagne.’ Platt has great command of the crowd getting us to sing along with their song ‘Honey’ and at one point venturing off stage into the audience. As support for Fatherson on this whole tour, Blue Americans are sure to gain a legion of fans all over the UK and Ireland.
Waiting for Fatherson to arrive on stage is like torture – I am so impatient, as it’s been over two years since I last saw them perform and with the techs roaming the stage playing snippets of songs on the bass and keys, it is nearly too much of a tease.
Coming up through the crowd to get on stage, the band are well received much to their delight. Opening with ‘Lost Little Boys’ from 2016’s ‘Open Book’ is a glorious move and the crowd are able to throw their energy into singing along.
From the get go, it is a high-octane and there is an amazing atmosphere. The only time I remember feeling similar was at one of Biffy Clyro’s early gigs when they were on the cusp of bigger commercial success. The mood of the audience is infectious, and Mark Strain is playing bass with the biggest smile on his face. Stepping back from the mic frontman Ross Leighton grins and in his thick Scottish accent asks, “Well Belfast, what the fuck is up?”
Greeted with a victorious cheer, they continue with ‘The Rain’, the opening track from their new album, and this is enhanced with Ciaran McEneneny’s presence on keys for this tour. It is atmospheric and when Strain’s bass line kicks in the crowd cheers. It is one of the best songs from the new album and it is easy to see how Fatherson have matured as songwriters over the past two years but still retain their charm.
‘Gratitude’ makes me think of great early 90’s alt rock like Weezer with its stripped back sound and slacker anthem quality yet somehow it manages to feel fresh and new. “That was fucking lovely” Leighton tells us and one enamoured fan retorts with “you’re lovely!” which sets the tone for the easy band vs. audience banter that continues throughout the set. And that is part of what makes Fatherson such a draw to fans; their affability and accessibility. You get the real sense that they are just young men who consider themselves lucky to make a living doing something they love, it’s very endearing.
‘Just Past the Point of Breaking’ sits well in the set among the newer material with its anthemic feel and swelling sound. ‘Charm School,’ the most recent single, is up next and it is a major league banger which deserves continuous airplay with its infectious hook and shimmering guitars. You can’t help but sing along and that’s the case with most of Fatherson’s songs. All night the band are beaming ear to ear with the realisation that everyone knows all the words to their new songs despite the album only being released on 14th September. That must be an amazing feeling.
‘Half the Things’ from 2014’s I Am An Island changes the tempo but the singing along doesn’t stop – if anything, it intensifies due to this old favourite and fans providing backing vocals and harmonies to Leighton singing, “I’m on an island that no one ever visits, I’m wasting all my time here. I’ll never get it finished”.
In keeping with the downshift of pace is ‘Reflection’ and Gregg Walkinshaw’s drumming is perfection. Coupled with Leighton’s plaintive guitar and vocals, it is an emotional moment and honestly gave me goosebumps. There is something about watching a band on the cusp of greatness when they don’t know just how good they are. That’s Fatherson all over.
After that moment the only way is up and there’s no better way than with ‘Always’ from their sophomore album. Peppering their set with older songs again reinforces the evolution of the band’s songwriting skills. At the end of their set but realising that they have no offstage to go to, they opt to carry on playing instead of the traditional exit and reappear moment most shows have.
The frontman does a solo version of ‘James’, my favourite song from their debut album. On this Ross Leighton’s voice is showcased perfectly with his full tenor range on show, including falsetto. We all help him out with the very highest note on “making my new friends” and he smiles broadly at the camaraderie.
‘Open Book’ is my highlight and envelops me with feelings. There are so many standout moments in this show for me though that it is difficult to pick a highlight. ‘I Like Not Knowing’ is another with its melodic uplifting guitar riff and exhilarating energy – again the audience obligingly performing back vocals on the ‘oh no’ portion of the song.
Ending on ‘Making Waves’ the lead single from ‘The Sum Of All Your Parts’ despite protestations of ‘Sleeping Over’ and ‘nine more tunes,’ the show is over all too soon. Everyone in attendance is leaving with smiles on their faces, band included and with a promise to ‘not leave it as long to play here next time’ I have a feeling the next time Fatherson grace these shores, it will be in a venue at least twice the size, and deservedly so.