A Monday night in Belfast and the place is buzzing, even with the crappy weather. And so it should as none other than the wonderful Supergrass are playing in the Ulster Hall.
The Hall is filling up well as support coming from local Co. Armagh band Hunkpapa hit the stage. Sauntering on with smiles a mile wide these boys from the Orchard County look naturals on stage. There seem to be quite a few fans in the place as they deliver their tunes with natural aplomb and enthusiastic and energetic professionalism.
Wowing the audience with tunes like “This Is The End”, “Living Now” and “Rachael” they own the stage as they move around like real rock stars. It was a great delivery and there is no real let up throughout their set. They know what they are doing and why they are there, to entertain, and entertain they do. A great act that you must see at least once in your lifetime.
After a quick set change the lights go down, the video screen in the back lights up into life showing the band logo and video collages throughout. Onto stage come Supergrass and the place goes wild. They group have not been long back at the business but anyone would be forgiven for thinking they never took a break with the tightness and connection they all seemed to have as they landed straight in with “In It For The Money”.
The Hall was heaving with people and Gaz drove the crowd into a frenzy just with the flick of his wrist as they started up “I’d Like To Know” and then onto into “Grace”. “How are you doing, Belfast?” asked Gaz and the responsive roar showed everyone there was great and definitely already having a great time. Though Supergrass could really be identified more as a 90s band there were all ages and all backgrounds in the Hall showing the breadth of appeal this band has had all this time.
The songs went on with the likes of “Mary”, “Moving” “Mansize Rooster” “Late In The Day” “Cheapskate” and “Going Out” were all delivered with full on talent and passion in perfect harmony. The crowd were going at as crazy as a mansize rooster and there was no stopping them. It was easy to make out the massive number of fans singing along to each song, punctuating the choruses as loudly as they could. Everyone was having a great time and drinking in the magnificence of a very talented band on stage back in their element.
Gaz and Mick did a fantastic job up front interacting with the crowd. So much so at one point in between songs Gaz was being ‘expert’ heckled about the sound of the bass. Taking it in his stride he made beautiful light of it and acknowledged nothing was perfect but just wanted to enjoy it all. The heckler was so persistent at one point, and without a malicious edge whatsoever, Gaz retorted “Shut the F*** up” much to the amusement of everyone else.
Anyone in that position has a difficult job of balancing fun, joking and not being put off their stride when someone in the audience is persistent about how knowledgeable they are about sound engineering. Yes the sound was not as balanced as it could or should have been, but it was still more than enough to completely enjoy a fantastic group playing their hearts out on stage.
How Gaz handled the situation only endeared him and the band even more to the fans, if that was even possible. Throughout the rest of the gig Gaz would reference the young lady a few times which were perfectly timed. Needless to say there were no more interruptions. It was like watching a comedian doing a professional putdown of a heckler. Poetry in motion.
“St Petersburg”, “Lose It”, and “She’s So Loose” kept the Hall pumping. Be it a slow or softly acoustic piece or hard rocking indie style the place was absolutely on a high and utterly roasting with the number of people all going at the dancing like it was a full workout at the gym.
Then came the biggest reaction all night, as Supergrass landed a full home run with “Alright”. Bands can be defined by one song, many to their detriment. Supergrass have a hefty and well known catalogue of incredible songs, but “Alright” will forever be their upbeat anthem , They closed their set with another wonderful anthem “Sun Hits The Sky”, “Lenny” and when Mick came back onto stage after thinking “Lenny” was the last song, they ended with “Pumping On Your Stereo”.
The place just went crazy as everyone suddenly had a second wind and everyone was determined to enjoy every last tune. The band could be visibly seen to be shattered, and deservedly so as they just gave a performance to end performances on the Ulster Hall stage. There was no holding back.
Of course there then came the encore with “Caught By The Fuzz”, “Bad Blood” and “The Strange Ones”. Delivered with no less energy or verve as the first song of the night. The place was high as a kite on the utter joy the band exuded and the crowd felt. What a show.
Hunkpapa are well worth going to see for a great energetic band with a full bag of tunes. Supergrass were just phenomenal. It will always be a joy to see these four bandmates work together to deliver a fantastic performance. Every song was a joy to behold. As they continue their tour, if you get a chance to see them, go and do it. If you miss Supergrass on stage you will regret it.
Review by Ivor Whitten
Photography by Darren Mcveigh