AMY MacDONALD – LIVE AT CUSTOM HOUSE SQUARE 19.8.2017 (CHSQ)

It had been a while since Amy MacDonald’s last concert in Belfast, nine years ago in 2008, something she addressed to the crowd, apologising for taking so long for coming back, which she said was “Too long” a gap.

She had announced a tour this year, there was hope of a Belfast gig, but it was not to be. There was a Dublin gig, but no Belfast gig. We do get annoyed when people play Dublin but not Belfast. There was hope, that she was being lined-up for a festival instead.

That proved to be the case, when she was announced to be supporting Foy Vance at Custom House Square in August.

August gave us hope that we would get to see Amy in the sunshine. We didn’t quite get sunshine, but we did get daylight and a dry sky. The weather was the first thing she commented on, saying it was great to see a blue sky, and a dramatic improvement on the weather she was soundchecking in.

I’ve been a long time fan of Amy, going back to her debut album in 2007. I remember a friend of mine didn’t like her. No reason given, just simply “I don’t like her”.

Ten years on, she considers herself a veteran at the age of 29. She won’t be 29 for much longer, she turns 30 next Friday, which she acknowledged during the show, stating that things have change since she first started gigging in 2005, that she now considers a cup of tea between songs as her version of rock n roll excess.

She stated that this was the most polite crowd she had played to, having believed that Belfast and her hometown of Glasgow to be very similar, but that if this gig was in Glasgow, there would be police horses and riots everywhere. A small section of the crowd booed at the suggestion.

Most of us were just toetapping and singing along.

When you tour so much, it is easy to forget where you are, with Amy commented that she almost replied “Danke schon” after getting applause from the crowd, having spent so much time in Germany this summer. She is so famous in Germany, that Joachim Low is a fan.

The set, around 45 minutes, was mostly stripped back, and featured hits such as Dream On, This Is The Life and Mr Rock N Roll.

I would have loved to have seen her perform Don’t Tell Me That It’s Over.

As mentioned earlier, she was supporting Foy Vance. Anywhere else, she would have been the headliner, but it was a “Home” gig for Vance, so she had to make do with second billing.

I’m not that really into Foy Vance, so I left after her set, I was only there for Amy and had a decent time of dry weather and a bit of toetapping. I even enjoyed the novelty of finding a smoke free area in the venue (just by sheer chance of being stood beside people who aren’t smelly tramps, rather than a designated area). An exception rather than the norm for outdoor concerts in Belfast sadly.

This concert was part of a new festival called CHSQ, which as abbreviation enthusiasts will tell you, means Switzerland Squared. What an odd name for a festival.

Although, I think it’s just trendy text speak for Custom House Square.

Having enjoyed a bit of late summer singing along and toetapping, it would be nice if we could do it again in Winter. She’s got an acoustic tour scheduled for November, so hopefully, she’ll be able to fit in a quick return to Belfast with her own headlining show.

Fingers crossed.

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DUNGANNON SWIFTS 0-4 LINFIELD 19.8.2017

The weather might have been inconsistent and unpredictable, but Linfield weren’t, as they strolled to victory in the sun, rain and everything inbetween in Tyrone.

It was Linfield’s third successive win of the season, third clean sheet, and to keep on a trilogical theme, results elsewhere meant that the five clubs with perfect starts at kick-off were now a top three, with Linfield sandwiched inbetween Glenavon and Coleraine, all on nine points.

For the early part of the game, the ball was in midfield a lot, neither side creating a noteworthy effort. Linfield’s best effort came from a speculative long range effort from Jordan Stewart.

Linfield weren’t helping themselves with numerous stray passes.

That was until Linfield’s first real attack of note was started and finished by Paul Smyth, who headed home after Dungannon keeper Stuart Addis missed a cross.

Within minutes, Dungannon had a clear shot on goal saved by Roy Carroll, a reminder that the game was far from won.

It took a free-kick for Linfield to get their second when a tee-up saw Niall Quinn fire a spectacular effort into the top of the net. It was a goal that deserved Alan Partridge commentary, it was that good. For Quinn, it was a case of Play Your Cards Right, and didn’t he do well.

The final minutes of the half saw Linfield get a third when a corner was headed in. From where I was, it looked like Mark Haughey who scored, but video replays showed that it was headed into his own net by Seanan Clucas.

For the third successive match, the three points were secured by half-time. People should only be charged £6.50 into Linfield matches at this rate. I guess those who set admission prices would disagree and say that The Price Is Right.

I was hoping Linfield would rack up a lot of goals in the second-half, mainly due to the awful Now That’s What I Call Shit Dance Music 1999 CD that Dungannon were playing on the PA System.

Unsurprisingly, the second-half was a non event, with Linfield utilising their subs bench and allowing Aaron Burns, Stephen Lowry and Matthew Clarke to get some game time.

In the final minutes of the game, Linfield got a penalty for a push on Mark Stafford. Linfield fans celebrated the award, until they realised it would probably be missed.

At 3-0 up against a Dungannon side coming to terms with the loss of Andrew Mitchell to Glenavon, it was perhaps a bit cruel of Linfield to get their own Andrew Mitchell to take the penalty.

He stepped up, and Addis got a hand on it. Before the crowd could utter “Oh for crying out loud …” at another miss, the ball hit the back of the net and it was 4-0.

An even bigger relief was to finish the game with 11, due to the card happy nature of the refereeing for both sides.

Goals are coming throughout the team for Linfield, which is handy considering Andrew Waterworth’s absence through injury. It will be great to get him back fit, but it’s just as great that others are stepping up to the mark in terms of goalscoring.

Elsewhere, Glentoran couldn’t make the most of a generous run of games with a 1-1 draw at home to Carrick. They’re so bad these days, they can’t even give their fans false hope.

Also drawing 1-1 were Cliftonville at Ballinamallard, and they are now five points behind Linfield. I never viewed them as title challengers despite the return of Joe Gormley (Remember, he scored 40+ goals in his last season at the club, and they finished 5th)

They’ve become a team who draw at Ballinamallard. Teams in the bottom six view them as a team they can get points against. It’s something that is hard to shake off. Yesterday’s results will only give those sides confidence when facing them.

Crusaders lost 2-1 at home to Coleraine. For once Crusaders got a last minute goal, and it didn’t matter. It was perhaps apt that it was a player called Forsythe who scored.

Meanwhile, Glenavon won 6-1 at Ballymena. Not going to lie, Ballymena’s poor start is making me nervous ahead of their visit to Windsor Park next Saturday.

That means Glenavon, Linfield and Coleraine are the top three, with three wins out of three. Though Linfield might be second, they cut the gap in goal difference to the top of the League from four goals to three goals.

After the Ballymena game, Linfield won’t have a League match until September 9th. That means if we can win on Saturday, the worst that will happen while we are inactive (in League terms) on 2nd September is that we would be three points off the top with a game in hand.

Next Saturday also sees Cliftonville play Crusaders, meaning they can pull further clear of one or both of them.

That inactivity is due to the trip to Crusaders on 6th September being postponed due to international call-ups. There’s positives and negatives to this.

September will be a busy month and this will ease the fixture congestion.

However, when you see Matchday 3 results and the fact Crusaders will be coming off the back of a North Belfast Derby, they would be there for the taking.

No point moaning about it. It is what it is, might as well get on with it.

Linfield won’t be playing in the League on 2nd September because they are scheduled to be playing in the Scottish Challenge Cup, the draw taking place last week.

The draw was convenient in terms that it gave Linfield an away tie in the Central Belt, but inconvenient in the fact that we don’t know who we are playing.

Linfield were drawn away to Albion Rovers or Spartans. Albion beat Spartans but are being investigated for fielding an ineligible player.

After spending years writing about wanting to go to Ainslie Park, I could be going there twice in the space of a month, having seen Edinburgh City play there two weeks ago.

It would be a nice novelty to be in Edinburgh and not to have flyers shoved in my face.

It would be hilarious if Albion were thrown out, seeing as Crusaders had to replay Livingson last season after Livingston fielded in ineligible player.

It doesn’t really leave much time for this resolved, with the next round scheduled for two weeks time.

My hunch is that Albion and Spartans will replay on 2nd September, and Linfield’s tie being played between then and the next round date on 8th October.

I think Linfield’s tie will be two to three weeks after to give Linfield a chance to make arrangements and supporters to do likewise.

Linfield have home games scheduled on 9th (Glentoran) and 16th (Ballinamallard) and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was played on one of those weekends, with the League game postponed, possibly the 16th.

That’s just a hunch, I have no inside info. This is Scottish football we are talking about, so anything could happen.

If that is the case, we will be two games behind schedule, making it important to keep picking up wins.

As supporters exited Stangmore Park, the music improved, with Don’t Look Back In Anger by Oasis coming on the stereo.

Linfield fans won’t be looking back on this game in anger, just as a job done.

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THE FRIDAY FIVE – 18.8.2017

1. Liam Gallagher – For What It’s Worth
2. The Killers – Run For Cover
3. Amy MacDonald – Dream On
4. Stereophonics – All In One Night
5. Blossoms – Charlemagne

Ryan Adams Update – Still looking for a ticket. Ulster Hall, Standing, Face Value, get in touch.

MAGAZINE ARCHIVE : MELODY MAKER – 26.4.2000

Vic and Bob are joined on the cover stars of Melody Maker as she sings the theme tune to their new TV series, Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased)

Belle and Sebastian give Melody Maker a run through of their new album, while Oasis are set to miss out on a Number 1 with their new single, while American fans have been e-mailing Melody Maker with their views on the band’s US tour.

Also on tour in America is Primal Scream.

Cover stars Bob, Nina and Vic get four pages, with Bob commenting that they know how to handle Swedish women before, having worked previously with Ulrika Jonsson.

In live reviews, Melody Maker ventured out to see Elastica and JJ72 in concert.

Meanwhile, Paul Draper of Mansun is the subject of a Q and A, where he reveals he once bought a copy of FHM.

ARDS 0-2 LINFIELD 15.8.2017

With three games in seven days, there isn’t much time to relax at the start of the Irish League season, as Linfield made it two wins out of two in the North Down sunshine, beating Ards 2-0, the three points being secured before the sun went down.

The only worry for some away fans was getting into the ground, as roadworks at Ballyrobert made it a one hour journey for me.

As I arrived, there was a massive queue of people in front of me, and soon afterwards behind me. Would it really have been too much effort to delay the kick-off by five or ten minutes for those who were held up?

I ended up getting my first experience of the NIFL’s new £11 admission fee, due to the increase in handing back change in coins instead of the nice round £10 fee.

I only missed about a minute of action, and thankfully, Linfield weren’t quick off the blocks.

They weren’t slow either, building up pressure and being camped in Ards half. It was a matter of time until Linfield scored. That came when Mark Haughey was able to flick a loose ball over a defender in the box, and smash the ball home from close ranger after 18 minutes.

On 28 minutes, a Paul Smyth cross found Kirk Millar to head home and make it 2-0.

The pressure continued but Ards held out to keep the score to 2-0 at half-time.

A commanding position but not a definitive lead.

You know all those cliches about 2-0 being a dangerous lead? Linfield almost found out in the early minutes of the second-half when Scott Davidson was played through and hit the post.

You know that pundit speak of “He hit it too well”? It applies here. If he scuffed it, he would have scored, he struck it perfectly and hit the post, and straight to a Linfield defender to clear.

That was Ards big moment, as Linfield went in search of that third goal to put the match beyond all doubt.

Paul Smyth and Aaron Burns came closest for Linfield.

The third goal didn’t come for Linfield, but it wasn’t needed.

Burns, alongside Stephen Lowry were substitutes in the only change to the squad from Saturday after a one game suspension.

With Cliftonville, Glentoran and Crusaders waiting in September as well as the League Cup, County Antrim Shield and Scottish Challenge Cup between now and then, strength in reserve will be key to Linfield, even if it wasn’t needed here.

Results elsewhere meant that Linfield were one of five teams with six points out of six.

It is peak modern day Glentoran that they have actually had their best start to the season in eight years …… and find themselves 5th in the table.

Linfield are tucked away in 4th.

With two of the teams above them, Coleraine and Crusaders, playing each other, Linfield travel to Dungannon on Saturday knowing that a win will propel them into the top three at least.

The reason why Linfield are 4th is due to goal difference. It could have been so much better across these two games.

Goal difference was the thing that put life in Linfield’s title challenge last season when all looked lost. Linfield knew they didn’t need to overtake Crusaders, they just had to pull level with them and let the goal difference do the work.

There’s still 36 games to make up four goals.

Whilst the goals for column could be better, there’s no complaints about goals against, two clean sheets. Defensive records usually win you titles.

Linfield only needed two goals to be sure of beating Ards, Cliftonville needed to score six just to be sure. I know what position i’d rather be in.

Thursday sees the draw for the Scottish Challenge Cup, where Linfield will face an away tie. Stranraer away please.

I was amused to see that the scorer of Elgin City’s winner was Steve Bronsky. I’ve no idea where in Scotland he’s from so I don’t know if he’s a Smalltown Boy.

That’s enough 80s pop jokes.

Unless Kris Lowe of Dungannon is thinking “What Have I Done To Deserve This?” as Linfield score another goal on Saturday.

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LINFIELD 2-0 CARRICK RANGERS 12.8.2017

After Crusaders win on Friday night, Linfield were already playing catch-up as they kicked-off their opening match of the season, just as they did for 37 out of 38 matches last season.

As Carrick Rangers arrived at Windsor Park, they would face a Linfield side with five changes from their last domestic game, last season’s Irish Cup Final due to injury (Waterworth, Callacher, Clarke) and suspension (Burns, Lowry)

A team who usually struggles on the opening day, with five players missing and facing a team with ten men behind the ball. This had the potential of being a difficult afternoon for Linfield.

While Carrick were winning a lot of headers in the air, Linfield found other routes to get at their goal with low crosses, short corners and balls on the ground. Carrick could handle it, and it looked like a goal was coming.

Niall Quinn had a shot saved while Jordan Stewart fired over, before a low Niall Quinn shot hit the back of the net to put Linfield 1-0 up.

With only 15 minutes on the clock, it was the early goal Linfield needed to avoid getting frustrated.

Andrew Mitchell fired over as Linfield looked for a second goal, while a Jamie Mulgrew cross agonisingly evaded both Paul Smyth and Jordan Stewart when just a touch would have delivered a goal.

As half-time approached, Linfield got a second goal when Kirk Millar headed home from a Niall Quinn cross. That was surely the three points secured.

The second-half was attack against defence again, as Linfield aimed for a 3rd goal that would kill off the game, even though Carrick’s lack of attacking threat so far suggested that 2-0 would be enough.

Robert Garrett and Mark Stafford both had unsuccessful attempts at goal. Stafford was later substituted for Josh Robinson, denying him the opportunity to score against Carrick for the forth successive home game against them.

Linfield looked like getting that 3rd goal when Jordan Stewart won a penalty.

With Lowry, Burns and Waterworth not playing, there was no obvious taker. Paul Smyth had missed the only one he had taken.

Jordan Stewart stepped up and missed it, Carrick’s keeper gathering the ball on the line when it looked like he might accidentally score an own goal.

It was Linfield’s seventh penalty in their last thirteen matches, four of which have been missed. That stat doesn’t include the ridiculous penalty shoot-out against Glentoran in late July.

It didn’t matter as Linfield cruised to a 2-0 win. Carrick had so few attacks, we didn’t get to hear Roy Carroll shout “GET OUT!! GET OUT!!!”

The only disappointment was that Linfield couldn’t get more goals, a four goal win would have put them top. However, Linfield fans will know from last season that being top at the end of matchday 38 is all that matters.

Up next, a trip to Ards.

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HIT THE EAST (AKA … EAST BELFAST STREET ART AUGUST 2017)

You may have seen Hit The North be covered on this blog, taking place on the same weekend as Belfast Culture Night and brightening up North Street and surrounding areas.

Well, East Belfast decided it wanted in on the act, with an event titled Hit The East taking place on Saturday 5th August as part of Eastside Arts Festival.

There were murals painted opposite Holywood Arches Library, and at an alleyway on Bloomnfield Road, across the road from the entrances to Connswater.

I was away that weekend, but headed out to get some photos as soon as I returned. Enjoy.

Now, when are Hit The South and Hit The West going to start?

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EDINBURGH CITY 1-3 MONTROSE 5.8.2017

As you know, when I visit Edinburgh, I like to take in some football while i’m there. I know what you’re thinking – Hibs or Hearts? The answer, was neither, as I headed to Ainslie Park to see Edinburgh City take on Montrose.

I fancied a change and this gave me a chance to visit a new ground for me.

A few years ago, Scotland’s lower leagues were restructured, offering the chance for two of Edinburgh’s smaller clubs Edinburgh City and Spartans a chance to gain promotion to League Two, which Edinburgh City did in 2016 after winning the Lowland League and then beating East Stirlingshire in a Play-Off.

There was one thing that put me off wanting to go and see Edinburgh City. That was the fact they played their home matches at Meadowbank Stadium, which was built for the 1970 Commonwealth Games.

As you will have guessed, this resulted in an athletics track around the pitch and a ground far too big for the team it hosts. A truly grim football experience.

However, it was announced that Meadowbank Stadium was to be redeveloped and, as a result, Edinburgh City would be playing their home games at Ainslie Park, home of Spartans.

The fixture list gave them a home game the weekend I was there. It was a choice of them or Hibs v Partick. I was hoping TV would move the Hibs match and allow me to go to both games, but the news that admission to Edinburgh City would be half price for anyone with a Fringe ticket sealed the deal.

I certainly got lucky going on the weekend I did, with Hearts moving their early home games due to a new main stand being built at Tynecastle. Incidentally, the old main stand at Tynecastle was the only stand in Tynecastle I haven’t been in.

The teams entered the pitch to sunshine and kicked-off in torrential rain. Classic Scottish Summer weather you could say.

Montrose started the game strongly, and then started to dominate. It was only a matter of time before they scored. They did, and then did again a few minutes later. They were hungry for more. Edinburgh City were glad to go in at half-time only 2-0 down.

Half-time was only a relief for Edinburgh City, as Montrose made it 3-0 from a free-kick in the opening minute.

The game was a mismatch, though Edinburgh City did get a consolation late on, a few minutes after having a player sent-off. The match finished 3-1 to Montrose.

I had toyed with staying in Edinburgh until Wednesday. If I did, instead of leaving on the Tuesday morning, I could have seen Hibs v Ayr in the League Cup.

Obviously, I plan on returning to Edinburgh in August 2018. By then, visits to Tynecastle (3 years) and Easter Road (5 years) will be overdue.

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EDINBURGH STREET ART AUGUST 2017

As you will have gathered from recent posts, I went to Edinburgh recently.

While there, I got some Street Art photos.

In truth, it was a bit disappointing in comparison with recent visits.

I did head to New Street as that’s where most of it usually is but there was just a couple of tags but no murals.

I did get some pieces elsewhere in the city. Enjoy.

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Edinburgh Street Art August 2015

Edinburgh Street Art August 2014

Edinburgh Street Art August 2013

THE EDINBURGH CELEB SPOTTING BLOG 2017

You can’t go to Edinburgh in August and not someone you recognise, usually a Journalist of Comedian who has featured on Top 100 Donald Trump Tweets on Channel 5 (Not an actual TV show yet but it is surely a matter of time).

Sometimes, you actually see people who are famous.

So, here is a list of people who have been on the telly at some point I spotted while I was in Edinburgh recently.

Saturday 5th August

Angela Barnes – Walking though a bar at Pleasance.

Sunday 6th August

Clive Anderson* – Walking along George Street.

Greg Proops – Walking into The Assembly Rooms.

Monday 7th August

Jeremy Vine** – Eating his dinner in the same restaurant I was in.

*A second appearance on this blog for him. Like his last appearance, I ended up laughing to myself about that Brass Eye sketch.

**His brother has already beaten him to appearing on this blog by a few years.

You may have noticed the absence of Al Murray. I didn’t even walk past him once. I didn’t even think it was possible to go to Edinburgh in August and not see Al Murray.

Edinburgh Celeb Spotting 2015

Edinburgh Celeb Spotting 2014

Edinburgh Celeb Spotting 2013

Edinburgh Celeb Spotting 2012

Edinburgh Celeb Spotting 2011