Live Review: Augustines with Fatherson at Belfast Empire – 28th October 2016

By on Monday, 31st October 2016 at 2:00 pm

I must begin this review with a couple of regrets. This show brought me to the Empire Music Hall for the very first time, despite living and studying in Belfast for 3 months during 2012. It was also the first and regrettably the last time I will see Augustines live, for the ‘This Is Your Life’ tour was the group’s final farewell string of dates.

I was met by a three/fourths full venue of eager Augustines fans, with a sprinkle of Fatherson fans as I entered the rustic Empire Music Hall on Botanic Avenue. Everything seemed almost too fitting. The emotionally uplifting music produced by Fatherson somehow mixed really well with the neoclassical décor of the venue where Fatherson appeared like preachers, sending out their word among their listeners.

The Scottish band were the perfect support act for these final few Augustines shows. Despite knowing nothing about them prior to the show, the level of musicianship and professionalism alone was enough for me to think they were a great band. It was after their song ‘Cat Stevens’ when I fully began to appreciate them. Individually, each member was as compelling as the next, each having their own little nuances in movement that caught our attention as the eyes of audience members were glued to the stage. Frontman Ross Leighton, in particular, had everything nailed, from his mike technique to his strumming patterns. The vocal melodies and harmonies only strengthened the messages Fatherson were conveying and in such a beguiling way that left shivers down our spines long after they exited the stage.

With a short crossover time between Fatherson and Augustines’ sets, I took the chance to explore the venue in greater detail. Although it was decorated in fake cobwebs and skeletons just in time for Halloween, The Empire is one of the most prestigious in the city for up-and-coming but soon-to-be massive acts. The two-tier venue still has curtain lining the outer edges of the stages, with protruding columns and pilasters, which are still visible from the original foundations, similar to those of an old theatre hall. The dramatic surroundings proved to be a perfect venue for a farewell show.

Augustines graced the stage with pride, dignity and a lot of excitement. Their loyal fans made a clear barrier between the average punter and the band, welcoming the act with whole-hearted cheers. Without letting too much time go by, they began their first song ‘The Avenue’. It didn’t take long for the crowd to join in ultimately drowning out lead singer Billy McCarthy. Without hesitation, McCarthy and Rob Allen introduced drummer Eric Sanderson and touring trumpet player John Panos, which wass when the party truly started, diving into ‘Headlong Into the Abyss’.

Throughout the set, Augustines put their absolute all into the performance, which for their followers must have been extremely rewarding and quite a spectacle. For newcomers like myself, it brought about wonderment and awe. Every lyric was from the bottom of McCarthy’s heart, whether they were words of wisdom, love, tough times or good, or even patriotism, which is what he explained their song ‘Juares’ channels, everything was all for one.

The band did a great job in relating to their Belfast crowd by sympathising with their drinking shenanigans. This prompted the whole room to gradually begin a stomping their feet and chanting ‘Olé’, a sentiment that for some reason has been reappropriated by mainly Irish football fans. In response to this, the band replied with very kind thanks.

From start to finish, the rousing atmosphere never died. They had total control of their audience and delivered such a passionate performance, I imagine the whole room will find it hard to forget. It was clear from the show how much it meant to Augustines. Although they seemed sad by the end to be giving it up, I sensed they felt a great sense of accomplishment. As said before, my only regret is having not seen them before their final tour.

Editor of TGTF Mary Chang contributed to this report.

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF was edited by Mary Chang, based in Washington, DC.

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