As showtime approached, Gemma Bradley appeared on stage with her back to the crowd to do an introductory piece to camera, then we heard The A-Team Theme over the speakers, but not as we know it.
Seemingly, in 1977, a crack commando unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn’t commit, and relocated to Downpatrick.
We were then treated to a cover version of Flash by Queen, except it was “ASH!!!! SAVIOURS OF THE UNIVERSE!!!!!”
I would genuinely love it if they recorded this version and performed it live.
You could tell it was a big night as Tim turned up in a blazer, although this was dumped a few songs in. Mark’s idea of formal was to wear his favourite Star Wars t-shirt.
We were informed by Tim that Mark was still vowing vengeance on whoever stole his Princess Leia cardboard cutout at a gig at The Limelight many years ago.
As it was a very cold night outside, we were all relying on Ash to warm us up. It certainly was warm and sweaty in the venue.
The setlist began with a few biggies such as Goldfinger, Shining Light and A Life Less Ordinary.
For some reason, when I go to a concert, I like to stand on the left hand side of the floor. No idea why, I just do.
From where I was stood, I could see who was loitering at the side of the stage. I spotted an Undertone.
However, it would be a Snower (perhaps appropriate for this time of year) or a Patroler joining them next on stage, with Nathan Connolly joining the action, just as he did in 2015.
More biggies followed in the shape of Uncle Pat and Oh Yeah before Tim started asking where the Bass Player was.
I had originally thought he had nipped off to the toilet for a minute, but it turned out he has jumped into the crowd. I only knew that the next day because a friend on Instagram was posting selfies with him.
By now, Mark was back on stage. There was now a guest star entering the arena, Santa Claus himself, coming on during Kung Fu, dancing and doing kung fu.
Kung Fu Santa, now that is a film that has to be made.
Not sure what the plot is, but Santa and Kung Fu is a sure fire winner.
Whilst the weather had been cold all week, the weather didn’t deliver any snow, so Ash brought snow to the crowd, a confetti gun firing off white confetti into the crowd. I was covered in it, some of it was falling all over my house when I got home.
The band let us in on a little secret that i’ll share with you – They’re working on new music for release in 2023.
They then played Darkest Hour Of The Night, a recent song but a favourite for me.
That was then followed by Girl From Mars.
It would be a Boy From Stroke City and a Boy From Coleraine who would be entertaining the crowd in one of the more bizarre musical collaborations ever.
Damian O’Neill, the Undertone that I spotted loitering at the side of the stage came on. He’s appeared on stage with them a few times, he should probably ask for full membership.
On guest vocals, James Nesbitt. Yes, that James Nesbitt, taking off his coat to reveal a retro Northern Ireland shirt with “Ash 30” printed on the back.
I did warn you that The Ash Christmas Bash is chaotic.
As the band finished their set, the chaos didn’t end there, with Jump In The Line (AKA, Shake Shake Shake Senora) by Harry Belafonte playing on the speaker, giving Rick the opportunity to escape from behind his drumkit to showcase his dancing skills.
The rest of the band were making their way to the Dressing Room, came back to join him and showcase their dancing skills.
A rather enjoyable 30th anniversary concert.
Might as well mark Friday 20th December 2052 in the diary.
December’s photo adventures had to wait a full seven days, when I headed to Windsor Park to see Linfield beat Cliftonville.
A few days later, I headed to Ulster Hall for my final concert of the year, to see Primal Scream.
The following Saturday, I headed to Warrenpoint to see Linfield get a 2-0 win.
That was followed by heading to Windsor Park to see Linfield draw 1-1 with Crusaders.
December so far hasn’t been that busy so far, but there’s still some photo adventures to come in the final week.
It’s unlikely that i’ll be at Seaview tomorrow for the Steel and Sons Cup Final, but i’ll be at The Oval on Boxing Day. As if i’d be anywhere else.
Boxing Day is the start of three busy days, as i’ll be heading to Ulster v Connacht the day after, and then Coleraine v Linfield the day after that.
I hope you’ve enjoyed by look back at my photo adventures in 2019. Of course, there’ll be more photo adventures in 2020.
In terms of concerts, Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott, Blossoms and Badly Drawn Boy are already on the horizon.
Travelwise, Manchester and Bray are confirmed. I’m planning to walk up Bray Head. While in Bray, i’ll sneak in a trip to Dublin. I’m hoping to see a Euro 2020 game while i’m there, but i’ll definitely catch some League Of Ireland action.
May is the new date for Hit The North, so i’ll be photographing that, and any other Street Art I spot during the year.
And i’ll be crossing my fingers for some snow to photograph at some point because i’m a big kid.
October 2019 began with a trip to Seaview to see Linfield take on Crusaders.
A busy month of concerts began a few days later with a trip to Ulster Hall to see The Divine Comedy.
There was even some Street Art spotted during the month, heading to Stephen Street to see a mural of The Joker and Catwoman
The next day, I was on the road to Dungannon to see Linfield beat Dungannon Swifts 4-1.
From there, it was another concert, a first visit to The Telegraph Building, to see Two Door Cinema Club.
The flipping between football and concerts continued as I headed to Windsor Park to see Linfield take on Ballymena United. The following midweek saw a football/concert double header, seeing Linfield take on Warrenpoint Town, before seeing OMD at Ulster Hall.
October’s photo adventures ended with a trip to see Linfield take on Coleraine, the month beginning and ending for me with a 1-0 defeat.
Unless something dramatic happens, this was my final concert of 2019, and it ended how it started, by seeing a Scottish act at Ulster Hall.
Primal Scream rolled into Belfast, as they seem to do every three years, to promote a Greatest Hits album called Maximum Rock n Roll. I didn’t realise there were limits on Rock n Roll.
This time there would be a change of venue from those concerts in 2013 and 2016, with Ulster Hall hosting them instead of The Limelight, a return to the venue after 25 years according to Gillespie, before adding that his memory was hazy. A quick search online suggests it was 1992 rather than 1994.
As with my last visit to Ulster Hall, there would be no cloakroom facilities. So, I had a choice between wearing a raincoat indoors like a dick, or carrying my raincoat like a dick. I went for the option of looking like a dick.
Bobby Gillespie strode on stage, wearing a pink suit, but looking more like The Joker than Mr Blobby, being tripped out and chilled out, as per his usual vibe.
On Tuesdays we wear pink. So fetch.
Elsewhere on stage, Andrew Innes and Simone Butler, bounced off each other, metaphorically not literally, as they plucked their strings.
Those three were the only ones on stage who were visible, with Keyboards and Drums being hidden by their large equipment.
Butlet is now a permanent member of the band, having replace Mani who left to work on Stone Roses third album, which i’m sure will be released soon. Just finishing it off i’m sure.
For the early stage of the concert, it was mostly hits from their B List and C List, a lot of guitar driven songs and not a lot of dancing.
As a result, this concert took a while to get going.
Then, Gillespie asks the crowd “Do you want to party?”, before an automated voiced asked that immortal question, “Just what is it that you want?”
The party had now started, with Innes revelling in getting the opportunity to do the guitar solos he had been waiting all night to do.
At the end of that song, Gillespie said the next song had a choir and asked the crowd if they would fill in. We all knew what it would be, Moving On Up, and we all sang along, giving the band a standing ovation, and when our hands were sore, started stomping our feet.
From there, we moved on to Jailbird, then Country Girl, before finishing on Rocks, before Gillespie wished the crowd Merry Christmas.
It took a while to get going, but when it did, Primal Scream were unstoppable, a very enjoyable concert.
From Rocks to Roxette, and it was sad to hear about the death of Marie Fredriksson earlier in the day. Can’t say I would have rushed to see them in concert (They played Dublin in 2015) but you have to acknowledge they had some absolutely banging tunes back in the day.
So that is me in terms of concerts for 2019, but I’ve already got concerts for 2020 booked – Badly Drawn Boy in January, Blossoms in March, and Paul Heaton/Jacqui Abbott in April.
There are a few i’m going to pin my hopes on for 2020.
Crowded House announced a concert for Dublin on July 1st, the night i’ll be leaving Dublin after a short break. This triggered a rediscovering of Crowded House for me, it’s easy to forget how good they were.
They announced a UK tour this week. No Belfast gig. Hopefully, a Belfast concert can be squeezed in around their Dublin and Cork concerts.
While i’m in Dublin in late June/early July, Haim will be playing Dublin. Tempted, but then I remember that I hate outdoor concerts.
As a result, i’ll be giving Liam Gallagher at Boucher Road a miss. Sat in a field in the middle of nowhere, miles away from the stage as the Golden Circle is kept for people who know people and plebs like me can fuck off. Add into that, the place will stink of fags and vapes, and it will be infested with spotty faced fuckwits from Ards putting on crap Manchester accents and doing the Gallagher Strut, boasting how they’ll “Beat up some Cockney bastards”. I think i’ll pass.
Next time Liam, just do The Odyssey. I’ll pin my hopes on Noel turning up there.
Duran Duran have announced an outdoor concert for Dublin in the Summer with a new album also on the way in 2020. Fingers crossed a tour later in the year that takes in Belfast.
Ash are playing Dublin concert for New Year’s Eve, so i’ll be expecting a Dublin concert in 2020 to be embargoed, with a Dublin/Belfast double header being announced.
I’m hoping to go away over the July Holidays, i’m still trying to get those plans in place. I’ll keep an eye out on the listings for Galway International Arts Festival and Live At The Marquee in Cork around those dates.
So, that’s my plans for 2020. We shall see if it comes to fruition.
“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”.