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Review: Bear’s Den – The Limelight, Belfast

It’s been two years since Bear’s Den where last on Belfast soil playing to a sold out Limelight 2 on their ‘Red Earth & Pouring Rain’ tour and we’ve since been patiently awaiting their return.

Armed with an array of new material, English alternative folk band Bear’s Den make their triumphant return tonight playing to a packed out Limelight 1.

‘Fuel on the Fire’ kicks things off. The first song off the band’s third album ‘So That You Might Hear Me’, drum machine beats and electric guitars showcase an electronic side to the band but there’s no mistaking it’s a Bear’s Den track once we hear Andrew Davie’s poignant lyrics.

Taking it back to 2014’s Ivor Novello nominated ‘Islands’ they’ve swapped electronica for the banjo on ‘Elysium’, a tale of the power of friendship. A passionate chorus teamed with harmonious folk melodies reminds us all of why we fell for the band in the first place.

“I can’t forget you / I try all the time / I can’t forget you” sings Andrew Davie on emotionally charged song of love and lost, ‘Berlin’.

Davie praises the crowd for their effort at a singlong with a “Well Done” before introducing us to another new track ‘’Hiding Bottles’, the War On Drugs-esque ‘Dew On The Vine’ and the vulnerable ‘Stubborn Beast’.

It’s been a great set so far with the band playing a mix of both old songs and new, this highlighting that Bear’s Den are not afraid to evolve their sound.

“So it’s been a while since we been here how you been? Last time we were here we drank 22 Pints of Guinness” says Davie to an entertained audience – Did you even your in Ireland if you didn’t over indulge in the black stuff? Slainte!

Having heard ‘Crow’ I have a feeling that  ‘So You Might Hear Me’ will be another hit album for a band who are going from strength to strength. Their live shows are nothing short of incredible as their rendition of ‘Sophie’ reiterates. No amps, no mics, they’re stripping it right back to basics with this one, “If it’s okay with you we’re gonna do it like this/It’s gonna be a little quiet”. All of a sudden I feel like I’m in an intimate little pub, it’s a beautiful moment to say the least with the entire audience hanging on to every single word in awe, “Thank you so much for letting us do that Belfast”.

As a fan of the their sophomore album, I’m delighted to hear ‘Red Earth & The Pouring Rain’ and ‘Emeralds’. The shift from acoustic folk to synth laden 70s/80s rock wasn’t a move appreciated by everyone upon release but tonight it’s a welcome move as the upbeat pop-rock has the audience dancing and clapping along.

Slowing it back down we have  ‘When You Break’ before the band ramp up the pace again on ‘Auld Wives’, “I swam across the ocean to find your memory” declares Davie on a track filled with heartfelt emotion.

As the night draws to a close Davie gives his thanks and the band play their latest offering ‘Laurel Wreath’, a powerful ballad that embodies their folk rock roots and crossover to electronica before leaving the stage.

In typical Belfast fashion the crowd shout for one more tune and the band return to an almighty for a ‘Above The Clouds Of Pompeii’.

Stripping it back once more Davie and Jones step to a silent crowd to give us a beautiful rendition of ‘Blanket of Sorrow’.

Belfast thank you so much for letting us do that you’ve been so f*cking incredible” says Davie before closing their set with fan favourite, the captivating, banjo-led ‘Agape’. It’s a special moment to witness as Davie and Jones have the entire crowd singing along to every single word.

Bear’s Den embody everything a live band should be, engaging, talented with true passion for their art. Belfast holds a special place in their heart. I can only hope they don’t leave it too long before they come back again!

‘So That You Might Hear Me’ is due for release on the 26th April.

Writer for Gigging NI.