Stormzone – Belfast, Empire Music Hall 18/12/2014

With 2014 drawing rapidly towards its inexorable conclusion, the PM team found themselves braving the chilly December air for the first of two year-end gigs inside the space of slightly more than 48 hours… with the Distortion Project signing off on the inbound Saturday evening (see our review elsewhere), the first promoter to take his bow for this 12 month period was the inimitable Philip McCarroll, the brainchild behind the SO:NI brand…

Lo Mejor - Empire Music Hall, Belfast - 18 December 2014Lo Mejor ( kick off the evening with their stomping, dirty blooze rawk vibe, as epitomized early on by the stonking ‘Worry’ (taken from their forthcoming debut EP, due early next year), which starts off slow and beautifully lugubrious – especially in Stevie’s vocal delivery – and finishes ebullient and ecstatic in its hopefulness – a feeling captured in Niall’s sublime guitar play.  Demonstrating the band’s professional approach, the guitarist does not prevent the small matter of a broken bottom string interrupt his volleys of searing solos, as he merely moves up the scale and adjusts his tone (although there is a short delay while he subsequently has to restring and retune).  The overall result is a sound that is muddier than the swamp water the venue tries to pass off as lager and dirtier than a whore’s knickers after a night hanging around the Albert Clock!

Maverick - Empire Music Hall, Belfast - 18 December 2014Right from the opening note of ‘Snakeskin Sinner’, Maverick ( prove that they are THE hottest band on the Northern Ireland scene at the moment, with feet immediately dancing, fists pumping and voices going hoarse from the very off.  ‘Rock N Roll Lady’ lives up to the sexy vibe of its title, while ‘Got It Bad’ snarls and spits with the adrenalin-fuelled attitude that is winning them new fans with every gig.  New single ‘In Our Blood’ totally reflects the band’s approach and philosophy, proving – once again – that rawk ‘n’f’n’ roll flows through their individual and collective veins, along with spit, fire, venom and pure determination, helping the five lads to end a brilliant year on a true high and setting down a marker for, hopefully, bigger and better things to come in 2015!

Stormzone - Empire Music Hall, Belfast - 18 December 2014Stormzone ( pick and choose their hometown shows, and so it was somewhat of a surprise to recall that this was actually their fourth Belfast appearance of the year – but, then, you really cannot pick a better band with which to celebrate the festive season, as this is one act always guaranteed to put on a show of titanic (sic) proportions!  And this evening definitely falls into the latter category, as the band are clearly revelling in the atmosphere, with soaring solos, dynamic drumming, booming bass, rampaging riffs and vibrant vocals swooping around the venue and drawing an equally huge response from the (largely) idolising audience.

Set highlights include the suitably monarchical ‘Three Kings’, the thumping ‘Pass Loning’, the fiery ‘Fear Hotel’ and the passionate ‘Coming Home’, which sounds even louder and more impressive in the live environment.  Another triumphant hometown show.

Photographs by Marc Leach.

About Mark Ashby

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