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Gig Review : The Diamond All Stars

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The Diamond Rock Club has seen many great acts come through its doors over the years. From international bands like, Jizzy Pearl’s Love/Hate, The Electric Boys, Danny Vaughn, Dan Reed, Kip Winger, Tyla and Massive Wagons, to our very own local home grown talent such as Stormzone, Maverick, Gasoline Outlaws, Trucker Diablo and Nasa Assassin. To name just a few.

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But tonight is different. As tonight The Diamond celebrates its birthday. It all started when Derwin McFarland, Paul Cannon, along with their then wives, who were all big Mama’s Boys fans, would travel regularly to see former Mama’s Boys guitarist Pat McManus perform gigs.

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Pat never played around the Ballymena area, so they would travel to see him play and have to stay in B&B’s ect. They decided and took it upon themselves to try and bring Pat to Ballymena to play a gig, but unfortunately none of the bars in the area were interested. It wasn’t until Derwin approached then manager at the Diamond John Small, before they got the green light to put on the show that they wanted and were told to “work away” and that they could use his upstairs lounge.

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Pat would show up to play the gig, bringing his own PA and four lights. He would then go on to play the venue a further three times that year. Derwin and Paul, along with their then wives would buy a speaker and some lighting of their own and started building the club from there to what it is now. And the rest, as they say, is history.

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The Allstar Band were birthed five years ago from a conversation and question posed between Derwin and regular Alan ‘Oakesy’ Oakes. The question being that if you could put together a band from local talent, who would you pick. From that one question the Allstar band were put together. Alan ‘Oakesy’ Oakes will never let you forget that he had a hand in putting the band together by reminding everyone that “if it wasnae for him”.

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Just like fourteen years ago when it all started, legendary guitarist Pat McManus would be taking to the stage at The Diamond as part of the All Stars Band. On vocals is Cormac Neeson (The Answer, The Unholy Gospel Band). On Bass is Seamy Donnelly (A Little Bitter). On keyboards is Keith Weir (The Quireboys). And on drums is Davy Bates (formally of Stormzone). Tonight they play together for the fifth year in a row to celebrate the birthday of The Diamond.

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The band played a great mix of classic covers including “Boys Are Back In Town” , “Schools Out”, “Feel Like Makin Love”, “Helter Skelter” and “Alright Now”. Seamy Donnelly and Davy Bates got the spotlight to do a little something together that Donnelly wrote. An instrumental number called “Diamond”, which he wrote with the club in mind. ‘The Professor’ Pat McManus took over on vocals for a beautiful rendition of the Gary Moore classic “Parisienne Walkways”, which was absolutely faultless. Nobody is better at that song than Gary Moore, but my goodness, does Pat McManus come a close second.

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To finish off the show the band played their version of Sweet Home Alabama. Alabama being fittingly replaced with Ballymena. The band left the stage but returned a few minutes later to perform the classic “Freebird” and ending things off with “Whole Lotta Rosie”.

That was one hell of a show. Clocking in at around 130 minutes and I think that the crowd would have kept going if the band played on. I don’t think there was a disappointed person in the place as the band were superb, there was something for everyone and the audience in attendance hardly stopped dancing the whole night.

Up next at the Diamond, Danny Vaughn and Dan Reed will be returning together as Snake oil & Harmony on Saturday 28th March.

Review & Photography by David Stewart

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