Review & Photography by Damien Doherty for MPM
The Black Box Theatre Belfast is the venue for Horslips Con 2022, the brainchild of Horslips superfan Rob Aiken. With tickets having quickly sold out for the event, a captive audience of dedicated fans is gathered in the splendid venue for the night’s entertainment.
Main act for the night is the Pat McManus Band, who will be joined at the end of the set by Horslips members Barry Devlin and Jim Lockhart. To those in the know Pat needs no introduction, “The Professor” is renowned internationally for his virtuosic talent on guitar and fiddle, and it’s no secret that as a young musician the discovery of Horslips music would lead he and his brothers John and Tommy to form Mamas Boys. The evening opened with Co. Donegal band The Teraways unveiling their new Horslips tribute band – Swords of Light – coming to a venue near you.
With the crowd warmed up for the headliners, Pat and Co. hit the stage. Ready to Rock?, yes sir we sure are! Accompanied by drummer Paul Faloon and bassist Plunkett McComb the three piece are on fire right out of the blocks. Absent Friends from the Blues Train to Irish Town album is next, followed by Jumpstart My Heart off 2020 album Full Service Resumed.
We are treated to some Hendrix, Hey Joe stirring the crowd before Pat and the lads pay homage to one of Irelands favourite sons, Rory Gallagher, with a stellar version of the Taste standard What’s Going On. Eddie Van Halen eat your heart out as Pat taps his way through Got the Right and Juggernaut while Paul impresses with frantic playing and double bass drum sections on the latter.
Rifftastic Mamas Boys tune Runaway Dreams follows with Pat showing his prowess on both guitar and fiddle before segueing into Horslips number King of the Fairies, getting everyone in the mood for what’s coming later. A change of tempo and the guys slow things down for His Soul Remains With Me, Don’t Look Back in Anger, and Belfast City Blues which Pat comments was the first proper song he tried to write, and a fine job he did.
The band rock into another couple of songs from Full Service Resumed, an album recorded over lockdown in Plunkett’s studio. First up is Crystal Sky, a cracking tune with interesting syncopated drum and bass rhythms from Paul and Plunkett and some eastern inspired soloing from Pat, then Honey Trap.
Rounding up the set we have another Mamas Boys classic Straight Forward No Looking Back then Pats tribute to Gary Moore, Belfast Boy. And there’s no disguising the final song of the set, as soon as the first notes are sounded everyone moves for Needle in the Groove, oh yeah!
Now it’s time for the big finale, Jim Lockhart hops on stage and with Briege Devlin on vocals the band burst into Shakin’ All Over andthere’s shivers down our backbones. Barry hits the stage taking over bass duties from Plunkett who straps on a Telecaster for the remainder of the set. Furniture, a standout number from Horslips first album Happy to Meet, Sorry to Part is up first beautifully sung by Barry with the entire venue accompanying on the chorus. Pat augments the song exquisitely with some fantastic tapped solo work, then all axe men line up in a row for the closing sequence.
The flute intro of Trouble With a Capital T further ignites the fervour in the audience. Pat takes the vocals on this one, and along with the guitar solo does Johnny Fean proud. And then it’s the last song, no surprises for guessing what it is, Irelands alternative national anthem, Dearg Doom. Everyone is singing and there’s even the odd person headbanging along. A whistle solo from Jim leads into the closing phrases followed by a standing ovation and non-stop applause.
Being the legends that they are, Barry, Jim, Pat, Paul and Plunkett chat and take pictures with everyone, all giving generously of their time for the fans. Rob Aiken organized a fantastic show and he should be very proud. Looking forward to the next one already.