Review: LONELY THE BRAVE – Belfast

For the third year running, DIY Magazine and Dr Martens have teamed up to put on a brace of shows worldwide, including six dates in the UK. The tour, entitled ‘Stand For Something’ is, one could say, a musical representation of an idea: individuality. Strength. Unapologetic non-conformity – much like the sponsors’ own ethos. The opening night of the final UK run (the tour had already hit Glasgow in September, and Norwich and Leeds in October) was in Belfast, in the intimate Limelight 2. Featuring Lonely the Brave headlining, with Dubliners, Only Rivals, and Belfast’s own R51 as support, it promised a night a top notch alt rock.

R51 stepped up first, playing alt rock as sparkly as vocalist Melyssa Shannon’s green dress to a room rapidly filling with excited punters. A few sound issues – namely, Shannon’s vocals getting lost in the mix briefly – are thankfully resolved by about their second song, allowing the band to properly rock the socks off the crowd with their radio-friendly, rather toe-tappy rock. There’s a tangible connection between band members, which is always a bonus – who wants to watch a bunch of miserable gits on a stage, right?

A Bjork cover and a rather bizarre recitation of a snippet of ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel Air’ demonstrate that this is a band who are striving for quirkiness and kookiness – in the vein of Marmozets, but with added kook – but their sound is a bit too safe and ‘nice’ to pull it off.

Final track ‘I Hate That Too’, described by guitarist Jonny Woods (who, despite his mild-mannered Clark Kent look, can wail on his guitar) as “…a pretty heavy metal one” displays the band at their most adventurous and ballsy (Fresh Prince rap notwithstanding), giving drummer Matt Killen, in particular, the chance to really cut loose. The warm applause they receive at the end of their set shows that they certainly connected with the audience tonight.

Flashing blue lights, and a thrum of reverb introduces the next band, Dublin rockers . All jangly guitars and syncopated beats, theirs is a more American style of alt rock – more Killers than Arctic Monkeys, if you will. They too interact well with both each other and the audience, with vocalist Stephen Arkins encouraging an initially reticent crowd to step a bit closer to the stage.

Their music is angular and gritty, melodic yet un-pretty, as they fire out tunes such as ‘Borders’ (“our only decent song” jokes Arkins), with its scything riff, and ‘Grudge’ from new album ‘Life Is Perfect’. Musically, they are precise and tight as a gnat’s arse, pumping out track after track of the kind of groove-filled alt rock that the NME regularly jizz their knickers over. It’s hefty and enjoyable, even if it’s perhaps a tad generic. Their set ends, rather abruptly, after twenty-five minutes and the crowded Limelight responds with noisy enthusiasm.

Having crept seemingly out of nowhere in recent years, Cambridge’s Lonely The Brave have been steadily rising in both popularity and mystique ever since. A split EP with Frnkiero And The Cellabration (with cover art designed by no less than Radio 1’s Daniel P Carter) and an appearance at this year’s Reading and Leeds festivals have cemented their place and reputation as rising stars in the alt rock scene. Tonight, they meander onstage all ‘just out of bed’ hair and casual clothes, and simply blow the crowd away with their effervescent and heartfelt performance. Call it indie, call it alt, call it ‘doom pop’ (the band’s own description) – they hold the enraptured audience in the palms of their collective hands for their entire set.

Again, there are sound issues initially, with the more subtle aspects of the vocals lost, before both the band and the sound guy hit their stride. Vocalist David Jakes, himself the reason for much of the band’s ‘mysterious’ tag – he is apparently cripplingly shy and has only recently graduated from singing with his back to the crowd, from behind a guitarist – contrastingly possesses a warm and completely confident voice, that rings out beguilingly, to the delight of the punters crammed into the venue. The rest of the band simply fizz with energy as they fill the room with jangly, yet somehow often delicate, riffs and earnest grooves.

They treat the crowd to a wealth of hits, from the deliberate and measured ‘Backroads’ to the heartfelt ‘Deserter’ and a gorgeous ‘River, River’. A slight mid-set lull where all the songs start to sound a bit samey is rescued by vast, sing-a-long-inducing final number ‘The Blue, The Green’ – it’s clearly an adored audience favourite, and one that ends the band’s set on a mountainous high note. It would be nice to see Jakes’ face now and then, mind…

So, if you’re into your alt rock and you missed tonight,:

a) d’oh!, and

b)make sure you catch the next DIY/Dr Martens ‘Stand For Something’ tour. You won’t regret it. Follow Lonely The Brave on Facebook

Review: Melanie brehaut Photography:Darren Mcveigh

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