OMD – LIVE AT ULSTER HALL 23.10.2019

“This first song was from 1980, and this last song was from 2017” said Andy McCluskey two songs in, before adding “And the rest will be from inbetween”, stating the obvious, considering that it was a 40th Anniversary Greatest Hits Tour.

1991, then 2009 (supporting Simple Minds), then 2017, and now 2019. Thankfully, the gap between their appearances in Belfast seem to be getting shorter. In fact it was one day short of two years since they were last in Belfast, at Mandela Hall.

It was back in 1996, when channel hopping and coming across the video for Walking On The Milky Way on VH1 (Because all the cool kids watch VH1), I always remembered how such a great song it was.

Then I knew Enola Gay. I liked two songs.

Then a few years later, I couldn’t sleep, and was watching some 80s videos on one of the music channels, and they played Souvenir.

So that was three songs I now knew and liked.

Later, when I joined the Music Library at Belfast Central Library, one of the first albums I took out was the 1998 compilation album The OMD Singles, and found I quite liked them.

It was a long wait for them to come to Belfast, though thankfully not long for them to return.

Pishing down with rain when I walked to the venue, I soon discovered there were no Cloakroom facilities at the venue, so I faced a choice.

The raincoat I was wearing came from Decathlon, and is more for sailing, Sailing On The Seven Seas, you could say. It is absolutely roasting and the venue was roasting. Do I continue to wear it and be roasted squared?

Or do I tie it around my waist and look like a dick?

If you care, I went for the looking like a dick option.

The heat was referenced by McCluskey during the set, asking who had been at Mandela Hall in 2017, and commenting that it was just as hot.

Pointless fact about Andy McCluskey. His real name is George but he prefers to be called Andrew. That must have been really awkward if he was ever hanging out with Wham.

I’m not really a fan of Ulster Hall, but I saw Chvrches there earlier this year and it was fantastic, so it might not be dreadful for this genre of music.

As in 2017, McCluskey was taking Dad Dancing to a new level, and I’ve seen Tim Booth and James Dean Bradfield dance. The key, he said, was to dance like nobody is watching.

I wouldn’t be surprised if he holds Dancercise classes at Birkenhead Community Centre on a Tueaday night. He was working up such a sweat, that his black shirt was an even darker shade of black.

He even managed to display a sense of humour, telling people not to nip off to the toilet during a new song as it was actually quite good. When introducing a song he described it as a new song, before adding “From 1991”.

Just as people were expecting Sailing On The Seven Seas, opening up a Pandora’s Box by playing, um, Pandora’s Box.

Most of the big hits played usually resulted in hand clapping and fist pumping from the audience.

Hits such as Tesla Girls, getting a Yes Yes Yes from the audience as soon as the synthesised “No No No” intro was heard.

Other hits included Enola Gay, Sailing On The Seven Seas, Electricity, Messages, Joan Of Arc, Maid Of Orleans, Locomotion and So In Love.

Paul Humphries was even allowed out to sing Forever Live And Die, thankfully not being hit in the face by a bra thrown from the crowd as he was in 2017. Andy said he was jealous of the applause he got from the crowd, allowing him to sing another song, Souvenir.

The only downside was that my three favourite OMD songs, Walking On The Milky Way and If You Leave weren’t played, but I can live with that, considering how many of their big hits.

As they left the stage, Paul Humphries said “See you soon”.

You could read that as a quick return to Belfast to meet up with A-Ha next week, who they toured with in 2018.

Or maybe not, though that would be nice. Whenever it is, i’m sure it will be worth the wait.

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OMD live at Mandela Hall 2017

TWO DOOR CINEMA CLUB – LIVE AT THE TELEGRAPH BUILDING 16.10.2019

“It’s nice to see you Belfast” said Alex Trimble at the end of the first song, but didn’t add “To see you, nice!!!”. That would have been too cheesy, even for a man dressed as a 60s Crooner.

Sipping wine, on a Wednesday night, while wearing a turtleneck jumper and a purple suit, Trimble was very Bangor. Ballyholme behaviour.

This was a rare Belfast concert for the band, which they acknowledged during chatter between songs. In fact, you’ve had to go elsewhere in Northern Ireland to see them.

In 2017, you would have had to go to Portstewart to see them perform at the Irish Open. Their only concert in Northern Ireland that year, and it was for a bunch of Golf Dicks.

Earlier this year, they were part of the line-up for Ward Park 3 in their native Bangor.

In terms of Belfast, their previous appearance was in 2016 at The Limelight, in a concert billed as Tudor Cinema Club, a tribute to Two Door Cinema Club. They fooled nobody.

I wasn’t at it, not because I was fooled, but because I was already booked for Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott at Ulster Hall.

Before that, you have to go back to Belsonic in 2012, back when it was held at Custom House Square. That completed a quick rise for the band. A few years earlier, they were playing at Belsonic in late afternoon/teatime and being in small case on the concert poster, now they were headlining it.

For some reason, this concert appeared in the listings in the programme for the Belfast International Arts Festival. Nothing in the promo beforehand suggested it was part of the event, but rather, part of the band’s tour for their current album, False Alarm.

This concert took place in The Telegraph Building, a new venue for me, and a relatively new venue for Belfast.

As the name suggests, it is the building where the Belfast Telegraph was based before they moved to Clarendon.

The room where this concert was where the printing press was, the room where reports of Linfield trophy wins were printed.

This was my first time here. I’d hoped to park near to it but couldn’t find a space. After working my way around one way streets and a tour of Belfast City Centre, I settled on parking at Castle Court and walking the rest. I think I might just walk it for any concerts there in future.

On the day of the concert, I received an e-mail from Ticketmaster advising me to wrap up warm as it was a venue with no temperature. How wrong it was, it was roasting.

Described in that e-mail as “A pop up warehouse venue”, it had a screen where you could watch the gig from the bar if you were that way inclined.

As said earlier, this was my first concert at The Telegraph Building, but it might be my only one as plans are in place to turn it into an office building, but no actual date for that is known.

The reason why this gig was taking place in Royal Avenue was that The Limelight was unavailable due to Hot Chip already being booked to appear there.

The band walked on to the stage to the sound of Talk, the lead single from their current album, the drum based intro setting the scene perfectly for Trimble to strut onto the stage.

They ran through their hits, songs such as Talk, Undercover Martyn, Are We Ready?, Bad Decisions, Changing Of The Seasons and What You Know.

While performing Bad Decisions, Trimble channelled his Inner Prince. Well, he was wearing a purple suit.

The band expressed their excitement at playing at another new venue in Belfast, having played, in their words “Every pub, club and house party” in the city in their early days.

The band left the stage, and that was at. There was no encore. Or as we should say given the location, no late edition.

There was some mixed news in terms of concert announcements.

Kaiser Chiefs announced that their tour, with Razorlight as support act, will now hit Dublin but not have a Belfast date, while Blossoms announced they will be coming to Belfast in March.

I’ve already got a ticket for Blossoms, making it my first confirmed concert of 2020. How very exciting.

But back to 2019, and the second of three concerts in a busy October have been ticked off. Up next, OMD.

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Two Door Cinema Club live at Custom House Square 2012

THE JOKE’S ON CATWOMAN

There have been two new criminals spotted in Belfast recently, but relax, there is no need to contact the PSNI.

This week, some new artwork has appeared in Belfast City Centre, a collaboration between local artist Visual Waste and Canadian artist Derkz.

It is of The Joker (not sure whose portrayal it is, sorry) and Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer’s portrayal).

Obviously the best to take on those roles are Cesar Romero and Julie Newmar.

The location, as you may have seen in some photos, is Stephen Street in Belfast City Centre. It is a residential street close to Royal Avenue. This mural is at the far end of the street, away from the houses.

Just to warn you, if you look up the address on Google, you may find articles about the music producer Stephen Street, famous for his work with The Smiths and Blur. That’s how I’ve always remembered how to find this location, giving me a wee chuckle.

I stumbled upon this on Instagram on Wednesday night, and made a note to see it and photograph it as soon as possible.

Tonight, I had a half day on an unrelated matter, so with some daylight still to work with, I headed out on my bike to get some photos.

There has previously been some Gotham related murals in Belfast. Not strictly the same, but the alleyway leading into Ulster Sports Club used to simply have “THE JOKER” written on the wall.

Harley Quinn was immortalised on a wall in Exchange Way in 2017. That building has sadly been demolished, and the mural now gone.

And, of course, Batman is on a wall as part of a Superheroes mural in Slaibh Dubh on the Springfield Road.

This isn’t the first time a mural of Catwoman has appeared on this blog, with a mural of Julie Newmar appearing in Manchester in late 2016.

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THE DIVINE COMEDY – LIVE AT ULSTER HALL 7.10.2019

A busy month of concerts for me saw The Divine Comedy (Two Door Cinema Club and OMD to follow in the coming weeks) take to the stage at Ulster Hall, my first concert in four months, if you don’t include Edwyn Collins instore appearance at Strange Victory last month.

That concert by Edwyn Collins has raised the bar though, now i’m expecting tea and cake at every show I go to.

I was tempted, two days before this, to go and see John Power in Warrenpoint. If Linfield were away to Warrenpoint on Saturday, that would have sealed the deal. If I did end up doing a Football/Concert double header, I would have seen seven goals and got drenched. I sat at home and stayed dry.

Death, Taxes, Cast at The Limelight. But maybe not this year.

You were spoilt for choice on this particular evening. You had Keane (who I haven’t seen and would have love to have went, but I had my ticket for this before Keane were announced) at Waterfront Hall or you could have had Little Mix at The Odyssey if you wanted.

I wasn’t really that fussed on Little Mix, so were The Divine Comedy worth missing Keane for? Well, you’ll have to read on.

I’m just grateful that anybody is playing in Belfast these days. The last few months have seen Simple Minds, Pet Shop Boys, Stereophonics, Blossoms and Liam Gallagher all announce tours with no Belfast gig. Flip sake.

Support came from a band called Man and the Echo, who sound like Echo and the Bunnymen backwardsand featured a Keyboardist who fancied himself as Ron Mael, were decent, with a few toetapping tunes

The Divine Comedy are touring their latest album, called Office Politics, a concept album about life in an office.

The stage was set up like and office, with and in door and an out door.

Annoying they didn’t walk in through the out door, as a sort of tribute to Prince.

Neil Hannon, the impish little frontman appeared on stage and you couldn’t miss him, wearing a suit with images of a Test Card and wearing sunglasses indoors ……… in October.

And yet, he still managed to not look like Colin Hunt from The Fast Show.

It was an outfit that Hannon would decribed as “Hot”, stating that nobody told him how hot it would be.

This current album didn’t get an instore appearance at HMV in Belfast to support it like the last album, the people of Manchester had that honour. So, this would be the first the people would get to hear it.

This album made up most of the playlist, with Hannon stating that he is at a disadvantage in terms of research, as he doesn’t work in an office in his day job as a Pop Star, with his business being that of Show.

Part of this show was theatrical with a clock in the background being manually adjusted to take us on a journey through the working day. This work was done by a Roadie called Alistair, who got some sympathy from the crowd during the band’s last Ulster Hall gig after Hannon told him off.

The lights went down, and by the time they went back up, the band were wearing party hats, holding a balloon, as it was time for the Office Christmas Party.

And what song would kick off this party? Something For The Weekend, of course.

Hannon then disappeared into the pit between Stage and Floor, he was engaging in a “Watercooler moment”, although not many would have been able to see it. He then went on to make fun of people who work in HR. Less of that please.

As Hannon prepared inbetween songs, there would always be someone shouting “Play My Lovely Horse”. He was rather polite in his rejection of any such request, even though the temptation would have been to shout “Feck off”.

There would be at least one Father Ted song on the setlist, Songs Of Love, an instrumental version of which was the theme to the show.

For the encore, we were treated to a stripped back version of National Express. It worked, surprisingly so when you consider how big and loud the song is.

I wonder if they fancy doing some overtime?

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The Divine Comedy live at Ulster Hall 2017

The Divine Comedy live at Custom House Square 2017

The Divine Comedy live at HMV Belfast 2016

YORKGATE STREET ART

Spotted this when I looked out the window as I got the train to Carrick on Monday night, I made a note to go and see it the following weekend, a mural as you approach Yorkgate Shopping Centre from Belfast City Centre.

It’s obvious looking at it who it is by due to the style of painting, but a post on Instagram confirms it is by Friz.

I presume, it is a mural of Denise Weston Austin, one of North Belfast’s more curious residents, known as the Elephant Angel, who had an elephant from Belfast Zoo come home with her in the evenings.

You can read more about her here.

Phototaking wise, you are better taking photos from across the road to capture the mural in full.

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CULTURE NIGHT CELEB SPOTTING 2019

This could be a one-off, or the first in an annual series like my Edinburgh Celeb Spotting blog.

Anyway, when I was out at Culture Night, I spotted some celebs out and about.

Mary Peters, walking along Union Street.

Claire Hanna, walking along Hill Street.

Eden Wilson, filming on the grounds of St Anne’s Cathedral. Good job I did spot her, otherwise I would have accidentally walked into shot and appeared on UTV Live.

Barra Best, walking along Donegall Street. I would have thanked him for the good weather, but we all know that Frank Mitchell arranged it.

CULTURE NIGHT BELFAST 2019

Nothing says Summer is over and Winter is imminent quite like Aston Villa 0-0 West Ham United on a Monday night. Fast forward four days, and we have the annual event which gives us something to look forward to as we try to convince ourselves that the Summer isn’t quite over yet.

Talking of Summer, we certainly got the weather for it. Nice and warm, decent daylight and most importantly, no rain. Although that was the weather all week leading into this, you had the fear it was going to unravel when we needed it most. I think Frank Mitchell must have had a word.

Culture Night in Belfast was a milestone this year, marking ten years since it started. This was the eleventh such event obviously, and I’ve been to nine of them, not a bad ratio.

I missed the first year and got tickets to an event in 2010 that was part of it. After the event in question, I wandered about and enjoyed myself, making a note to come back each year, which I’ve done.

Back then, i’d come home from work, have a bit to eat, and head straight out back into Belfast City Centre, usually arriving around 7pm.

Usually by then, things would be in full swing, so I decided from about 2015 onwards to take a half day and arrive a bit early, usually between 4pm and 5pm.

This year was no different, out of work at lunchtime, home, watch a bit of the Rugger, relax a bit, get showered and get ready to get cultured, arriving in Belfast City Centre just after 5pm.

Helpfully, there were programmes being handed out outside McDonalds if you wanted one, so you could see what was happening where.

I declined one at first, getting a dose of PTSD from Edinburgh, thinking that I was being handed a flyer, so I politely declined at first.

My first visit was to North Street, to have a look at the new mural on Garfield Street. The building work on that street meant it looked drab and was in need of something like that. The artwork is ok but it’s basically an advert for Tribeca and i’m not really that fussed on advertising murals, unless they’re done well and aren’t an in your face advert like the Derry Girls mural in Derry or the John Lydon mural in Bangor.

I then headed to Rosemary Street to see that the chess board was there again.

A major part of Culture Night in the past has been street art painted as part of Hit The North.

However, Hit The North was brought forward to May this year, meaning there would be no live street art painting as part of Culture Night.

The organisers of Hit The North announced the day before Culture Night that their event will only be taking place in May from now on. On the plus side, it’s only eight months away.

The National tried to plug that gap by hosting a Street Art even in their Beer Garden. It wasn’t really much of an event, two guys painting on a canvas for about 20-30 minutes and that was it.

A regular feature of Culture Night is Street Countdown, the TV show Countdown, but performed on the street. The one I popped along to see was won by someone selecting “Haribos” from the letters assembled.

That was in St Anne’s Square, where there is usually wrestling matches, but not this year.

I’m not really into WWE (although I am aware it is now called WWE and not WWF) but I enjoyed watching wrestling bouts at Culture Night.

There’s also usually a parade of something through North Street, but that was also missing this year.

Also changed this year was the Roller Derby, which was moved to an indoor venue at University Of Ulster.

It felt like it wasn’t as busy as it was in previous years, not as many people there.

The loss of a few mainstays meant that I found myself having to flick through the programme to see what else there was.

I called into University Of Ulster and it wasn’t as busy as it usually is.

I then returned to St Anne’s Square to catch up with Street Countdown, which had now gone (turns out it finished around 7.30pm) and the stage taken up with Flamenco Dancers, which I did enjoy watching.

There were a lot of venues that had showcases in previous years which weren’t involved this year.

It was a strange contradiction of a lot of things being on but not a long of things to do.

It did feel heavily commercialised this year. There was one group of performers whose outfit was plastered with the logo of an energy company. Meanwhile, a car showroom hired a projector to advertise on the exterior wall of a hotel.

I really hope we don’t end up being Edinburgh lite with posters plastered all over the venues and being unable to move due to Flyerers.

It was bearable in terms of fagbreaths. That’s not really something to celebrate or be proud of, there were still too many of them about.

It was disheartening to see the programme for the event encouraging people how to get rid of their cigarette butts instead of perhaps, telling them not to be a fucking tramp in the first place and just keep them in their pockets, considering it’s marketed as a family event.

To be honest, it felt a bit underwhelming, which was a bit sad, as it’s an event I’ve always looked to.

I left around 9pm, the earliest i’d ever left a Culture Night.

However, that was not the end of the weekend festivities.

For the first time, the Saturday would be designated as Culture Day. There was a market at St Anne’s Cathedral which interested me, so I popped along to that on the Saturday morning.

As we now hurtle towards Winter, i’m looking for travel inspiration to give me something to look forward to.

I had hoped to book a weekend in London over 12th July next year, so it was disappointing to check the prices on the day Easyjet released their flights that it was £150 just to get on the plane. That’s before I check in luggage and book a hotel.

Looks like I might be looking somewhere closer to home. Galway is the European Capital Of Culture in 2020, so I might head there that weekend.

Or I might go to Waterford again, to check out Waterford Walls.

Talking of Street Art, with Linfield having a free Saturday in a fortnight time, I might use that Saturday to do a day trip to check out Drogheda’s Street Art. I’m still trying to find out if Bridge Jam is on that weekend. It was on that weekend in 2018, so fingers crossed.

And finally, here’s somewhere you might not associate with Street Art …… Rochdale.

Rochdale Uprising is a Street Art festival organised by Nomad Clan, who are regular visitors to Belfast.

I’m heading to Manchester to see United play in early November, so i’m planning to take some time to visit Rochdale and it’s Street Art.

So that was Culture Night, it wasn’t awful, but it did feel a wee bit flat and a wee bit different.

The biggest difference is I won’t be out on my bike on the Sunday after to cover Hit The North.

But you know i’ll be back out to do it all again in September 2020.

Photo Album

Culture Night 2018

Culture Night 2017

Culture Night 2015

Culture Night 2014

Culture Night 2013

Culture Night 2012

EDWYN COLLINS – LIVE AT STRANGE VICTORY 15.9.2019

Just putting it out there, all concerts should come with cake and tea on arrival.

That was what greeted me upon arrival at Stange Victory, where Edwyn Collins was doing a live instore afternoon gig before appearing at The Empire later that evening.

If you don’t know where Stange Victory is, walk towards Virgin Megas ……. what do you mean Virgin Megastore isn’t there any more?

Walk towards where Virgin Megastore was, and then turn left before you get to where Virgin Megastore was. Then you’ll find Strange Victory, and independent music store.

Starting a few minutes late due to the volume of fans wanting photos, autographs and everything inbetween, every request was honoured.

Not realising his mic was on, Collins accidentally broadcast his conversation to the crowd, it was nothing juicy or scandalous, he then asked for a glass of water, stating that it was thirsty work.

It was ironic, that he had a very dry sense of humour, commenting every time a member of his band introduced what song would be next.

Unsurprisingly, the setlist mostly comprised of songs from his new album Badbea, which he encouraged people to buy, even though he is against the commercialisation of rock n roll.

To be honest, I only really knew three songs by Edwyn Collins, none of which were played, not that it mattered.

A Girl Like You, undisputed banging tune. You can play air guitar to that song but not headbang, just strut and pose.

The Magic Piper Of Love, from the first Austin Powers movie, which wasn’t a massive hit, though it should have been.

And then, Rip It Up by Orange Juice, thanks to Top Of The Pops 2 for introducing it to me.

Of course, I managed to keep up my concert tradition of bumping into Linfield supporters, having a conversation about the previous day’s match as I left.

Not a bad way to spend a Sunday afternoon, and it was especially enjoyable for Collins, who was presented with a cake by the store as he left

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ULSTER SPORTS CLUB STREET ART

Spotted some photos on Instagram of new Street Art in Belfast, so I decided to go and have a look in person.

It is at the back of Ulster Sports Club. If you want an easy tip on how to find it, look for the large mural of a man and a lobster.

Culture Night is coming up but there’ll be no Hit The North, that was in May.

I note from the programme that there is a Street Art event in The National, so i’ll check that out.

If there is something of note, you’ll see it here.

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BELFAST PEACE WALL ART – SEPTEMBER 2019

A few weeks back, I went to the Peace Wall at Cupar Way for my every six months visit to see if there was anything worth getting photos of. There wasn’t.

However, in the intervening two weeks, I spotted photos of a work in progress piece by Emic, so I decided to go and have another look.

One the way, I took a detour and got some bonus photos at Northumberland Street.

Eventually, I arrived at Cupar Way and got some photos of Emic’s piece, which now has some inspiring messages written on it such as “CAMBRIDGE UNITED WOZ ERE” and “UP THE DUBS – 5 IN A ROW”

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