GIG REVIEW: PAY*OLA + Trucker Diablo + High Output + The Unprotected @ The Empire Music Hall, Belfast, November 17th 2011.
SO:NI ROCKS! A NOISY NIGHT IN NOVEMBER
- By Phil Allely
If you ever get the chance to visit it you’ll see why Belfast’s Empire Music Hall is the perfect venue for a rock band to perform in. The venue itself is steeped in history and has a unique look and feel to it, it’s stage layout/style demands your attention and any bands who perform there seem to up their game to suit the setting. It is difficult to get a bad vantage point to view proceedings and acoustically its high ceilings and spacious interior aid things well for pretty much every possible performance on offer.
This slightly damp November night I was there to see the long-awaited hometown headline slot of well-respected (dare we say veteran?) rockers Pay*ola. Fronted by Phil McCarroll (SO:NI promoter) this four-piece are an energetic mainstay of the NI rock scene, always striving to make their performance the highlight of the night and send everyone home happy.
The Empire has been host to many key events in Pay*ola’s existence such as EP and CD launches. This gig was no different, as they had some brand new songs to unleash (prior to their official EP launch). Crowd pleasers Blindside, 77 Miles, The Colour Red et al were there too, as well as a few older classics that we never usually hear at a live show. Recent album Optimism Will Destroy Me got a good look in too, with no pause for breath they rattled through what was essentially a greatest hits mix with gusto.
Known for their enthusiastic singer’s penchant for swinging his mic stand and other such high spirited moves, fans know that they are in for a real in-your-face treat when the outfit perform, but as this was a special night we even got some pyrotechnics thrown in too.
It was nice to see the band back in fine headline attraction form. After only playing a few sporadic (but well-received) shows in 2011 (due to their lead guitarist Nick being injured and the band deciding to take things easy until all was well), the sound, chemistry (between Nicky bass, Adam drums, Nick lead Guitar, Phil,vocals, guitar) and catchy songs were all still there and waiting to be set loose, the Empire has never rocked so well.
McCarroll of course made sure he catered his support acts to suit Pay*ola’s sound and style. This was not a night for genre jumping and confusion.
First up were up and coming in-your-face shock rockers The Unprotected. Whose singer is a man who pretty much ensures you know he is there. His demeanour, attire (pretty much performing in his underpants this time around) and performance all raise the game of a band that whilst embracing the sex, drugs and rock’n’roll gimmick can write some damn good songs too.
Attempting to follow the inspired lunacy were the equally enthusiastic High Output, who rock a more country tinged vibe, they were more subdued in their tunes, but they still hit home with every track and no doubt found some new fans along the way as well.
The penultimate act were Total Biker FM faves Trucker Diablo (currently on a roll with a spot at Hammerfest in 2012, upcoming gigs at the O2 London and some big support slots all under their belts this year alone). The ‘Big Truck’ rolled into the Empire and did what their popular anthem says. They did indeed Drink Beer, Destroy. The Trucker Boys left us wanting more and of course Pay*ola were up for the task.
A Noisy Night in November lived up to it’s name, Pay*ola (as a tighter unit than ever) returned to the Empire in fine style and highlighted why they are held in such high esteem amongst the local rock fraternity. The Unprotected showed themselves to be a band that will go far and that like Steel Panther have proved there are still gaps in the market if you look for them. High Output strutted their stuff with aplomb and held their own against the formidable level of talent on offer. Trucker Diablo did their thing as always and rocked the venue to its foundations with their hard-hitting rock sound. All in all this was one of SO:NI’s most well planned events of the year, the acts all worked well together, the crowd lapped up the sensory offering presented and one things for certain no one left the gig without feeling they had seen something special.