- 01 Jul 13
“It’s far from The National Concert Hall we were raised, I hope you all pre-ordered your interval drinks... I’m sure there’s a few sly naggins in here tonight”.
The audience erupts into laughter as Bell X 1 front man Paul Noonan greets the crowd after performing two new tracks from the band’s latest album Chop Chop. The tumbling piano melody and marching rhythm of ‘Starlings Over Brighton Pier’ seem somehow more arresting in a venue like this, with the acoustics providing a spine shuddering clarity to the vocals. The juxtaposition of said vocals with the rock distortion of ‘A Thousand Little Downers’ leads Noonan to admit that maybe they had “rocked out too early”. The new material keeps coming with the addition of a gospel inspired organ on the emotional ‘Careful What You Wish For’.
The audience show appreciation but remain seated and appear unusually reserved and tentative. It takes awhile for an atmosphere to warm up- perhaps it’s the pre-conceived notion of stuffiness associated with the NCH, the introduction of new material, or the restriction of free –flowing alcohol, either way the sheer lack of physical movement is bizarre for a crowd this size.
Undeterred, the boys glide through the remainder of Chop Chop with most tracks accompanied by a funny little anecdote about its inspiration. Noonan tells us that ‘Motorcades’ is about the “shit that makes you cry when your older, mine is the Venezuelan national anthem “he says (he’s not lying, he actually sings this in the song’s lyrics)
After racing to the bar for that all important pre-ordered interval drink, the audience flood back in and are treated to the Bellies old favourites including ‘Rocky Took A Lover’ which finally loosens up the crowd, with claps and cheers throughout. Then an appropriate hush falls over the venue for the heartbreakingly beautiful ‘Bad Skin Day’. “I’m seeing a little yawning” Noonan jokes. “This is a very grown up gig”, the crowd respond with cheeky adolescent giggles. Thankfully ‘Velcro’ invites fan participation with the sound reaching the ornately decorated curved ceiling.
Elsewhere, ‘Eve, The Apple Of My Eye’ is stunning in its subtlety, maybe It’s this intimacy that has helped the band maintain such a loyal fan base more then a decade after their debut release Neither Am I. The night comes to a close with the real crowd pleasers- ‘Flame’ and ‘The Great Defector’ with an encore of a banjo lead, blue-grass version of ‘ West Of Her Spine’ and ‘Mystery Girl’ which Noonan dedicates to his “new bride”.
There’s no disputing Bell X 1 are a fantastic live band, with the charisma, musicianship and vocals to effortlessly carry a live show so it’s a shame at times the crowd seemed out of their element and uncomfortable with their surroundings and in the end just never really allowed themselves to let their hair down.
By Karen Lawler