Arriving in Belfast just two days after his erstwhile bandmate Mark Tremonti, Myles’ gig was going to be slightly different as it was a bit more unplugged than Mark’s. Yup, that’s right, Myles Kennedy was going to do this gig the old fashioned way(ish) and play an acoustic set. A bold move by Mr Kennedy.
Inside the Limelight, what was immediately noticeable was the large crowd that had already gathered and that quite a few were already determined to be as close to the stage as possible. And the support act hadn’t even come on to the stage yet.
First onto stage was Dorian Sorriaux, highly acclaimed lead guitarist from Blues Pills. He had gone the acoustic route as well, as he releases his debut solo Ep “The Hungry Ghost”. He stands off to the side of the stage, reflecting the quiet demeanour and unassuming nature of his performance. There are no airs and graces, no special effects, no distortion pedals. Just one man, one guitar and one mic. The lighting accentuated his, almost, solitary stance, at one with where he was.
His performance was exemplary. With a young Art Garfunkel look and sound treading the line between Simon and Garfunkel and Neil Young, he weaved a mystical spell over all who were there listening. Spellbound and enthralled, the audience were glued to the spot as Dorian played one after the other beautiful, haunting and melancholic song. Each song like “Hungry Ghost”, “Hello my Friend” and “Need to Love” showcased a delicate, ephemeral and slightly otherworldly approach to an acoustic set. It was a wonderful experience to see Dorian play such a stripped down set to showcase his talent. If he had played “The Sound of Silence” it may have completely sealed the deal though.
The tension began to build. Lots of scurrying about on stage as it was being prepared. Lots of looking at watches and phones to check the time – it was worse than waiting for a blockbuster in the cinema when you just can’t wait for all the adverts to finish. Then on strode Myles Kennedy and a massive welcoming roar lifted the roof. His wide berthed grin would have put a Cheshire cat to shame as he pumped out “Devil on the Wall”. This was the song that set the tone for the whole night, a defining moment that would show what Myles was made off and whether or not he had been mad do go so musically stripped down.
It does not matter one jot whether you like acoustic sets or not. Myles Kennedy immediately forged a stainless steel reputation within the first 30 seconds. This was going to be a performance that exceeds all expectations. He took a street busker approach with his singing, playing and providing his own hypnotically thumping drum beat. It truly was an epiphany of epic proportions as the crowd began to realise that Myles Kennedy had brought Heavy Acoustic Rock to Belfast.
The level of applause and crescendo of cheers after this first song seemed to have stunned Myles. But thankfully only a moment. If he had any doubt about how he was going to be received, they were gone now. His grin grew impossibly big now.
Only encouraged by this he threw himself into the Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators cover “Standing in the Sun”. And again he got exactly the same reaction. The packed and heaving crowd were there to see Myles and enjoy his music. He joked a little about how embarrassed he was about his next song “Mars Hotel” from his Mayfield Four days, so much so he even cracked up laughing at the cheesy lines he was forcing himself to sing. Don’t misconstrue this, he was joking among friends and his friends loved him even more for it. He also made mention that he was taken back by how many people had turned out to see him.
In amongst the renditions of Alter Bridge’s “Addicted to Pain” and Slash’s “Starlight” he cultivated his rapport with the audience. He had just turned a packed Limelight one (right to the back door) into one of the most intimate and touching gigs one could ever hope for.
He debuted his song “Ghost of Shangri La” to the Belfast crowd, which made everyone there feel even more special. It felt like he had felt the love, taken it on board and repaid the kindness with a very special performance. People clapped, sang and swayed along with Myles, as he conducted the whole performance from the stage.
On he continued his absolute mastery of the audience with Mayfield Four’s “Eden” and Alter Bridge’s “Lover”. His performance just showed how good a musician he was. Comfortably playing rhythm, lead and producing an impressive vocal range. This was only accentuated because it was a stripped back performance with little reliance on anything else. In a time of backing tracks, auto tuning and miming, it was a very special experience indeed to witness a man produce so much with a guitar and his own voice.
Myles delighted everyone with an immense Johnny Cash style cover of Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper” with the audience enthusiastically joining in. It shouldn’t have worked. Really, it shouldn’t. But Myles nailed that cover version to the nth degree. On he went with “Haunted by Design”, “All Ends Well”, “Songbird” and “Watch Over You”. The audience just could not stand still throughout his performance from start to finish and the age range, difference of attire and the almost equal gender split was an incredible doffing of the cap to the breadth of Myles’ appeal.
A fantastic blues cover of “Travelling Riverside Blues” really was a beautiful thing to behold. Firing on all cylinders on a steel look resonator guitar and playing bottleneck style, he channelled out a fantastic blues track.
He finished the main set with Slash’s “World on Fire” and the crowd went wild. He took his time leaving the stage as he walked backward and forward thanking as many as he could for being there.
Of course, the chant of ‘one more song’ was very quickly taken up and he duly obliged with an encore of
“Love Can Only Heal” and “Year of the Tiger”. The applause was deafening as he once more took his time to show his appreciation to the fans.
Overall the gig was amazing. It’s a word that gets bandied about too often, but it really reflects the experience in the Limelight. Not only did Myles play his heart out for every song, so did the audience. It was a group euphoria on a sublime level. Do not let the idea of an acoustic set put you off, cynical as we can all be, go in with an open mind and you will find it blown away by Myles Kennedy. This is a performance you need to see for yourself.
Review: Ivor Whitten, Happy Metal Geek
Photos: Mark McGrogan, Rock n Load