At about 11 O’clock on Monday the 24th of September a sizable room of people in the Limelight in Belfast were having an excellent time. The Cast of Cheers were pretty much single handedly responsible for this. Given the way the preceding 24 hours had gone this was a monumental achievement. The whole of the UK had been mercilessly lashed with rain and storms, Belfast was no exception. Flood warnings aplenty, many soaked as the heavens had opened and stayed that way, no doubt others had been victims of clumsy or just downright vindictive drivers of buses and cars splashing them with roadside puddles or worse still they had done that thing where you stand on a paving slab and a jet of water rockets up and soaks your foot. Grim times…Plus it was a Monday.
The Dublin quartet – renowned for worming their way into 150,000 people’s music collections with little more than good intentions, a bandcamp profile, no publicity other than positive word of mouth, an excellent live reputation and some sticky back plastic – were at the Limelight in Belfast to close their mini-tour of the Emerald Isle. The soggy crowd shuffled into the venue, looking somewhat dishevelled yet hopeful that The Cast of Cheers would live up to all they’d been told. Pre-gig chat was dominated by almost evangelical praise of the few attendees who’d seen them play before. This only served to buoy the already high expectations of the crowd ever higher. This would be an awful lot to live up to.
Two songs in and all doubts have melted away. ‘Human Elevator’ and ‘Goose’ fly by in what seemed like seconds. The crowd loosened up nicely. Each song received with more warmth and enthusiasm.
The Cast of Cheers are a more than competent and dynamic unit, at their core driven by the relentless beatings of part man, part metronome Kevin Curran whose partnership with bass player John Higgins forms a magnificent and somewhat brutal rhythm section (which is no bad thing). Higgins’ bass lines provide a stable harmonious touchstone for the intricate, pointed guitar and keys work of the brothers Conor (lead vocals and Guitar) and Neil (guitar and keys) Adams. Conor spits vocals staccato to the crowd with huge assurance with no lack of natural talent.
We skipped along into ‘Trucks At Night’ with barely a moment to catch our breath. The band show no sign of letting up, if anything their play became more frenzied whilst maintaining their tight musical regime.
For all the technical ability on display engagement of the audience was not affected, more through swagger than mugging to the audience, and they played like a team. The Adams brothers have perfected the art of the almost falling over look that is the hallmark of any guitarist worth their salt, each frantically leapt to their keyboard/pedals/mic just as they reached tipping point. John on bass loomed impressively for such a slight fellow as he bobbed on the beat and Kevin’s drumming was a lesson in efficiency. Like clockwork, not a single movement was wasted. Crammed in between the lines are all those little looks and nods you get when you see a band who are truly pulling with, and for each other. As said earlier, a team.
‘Tigerfox’, ‘Strangers’ and ‘Animals’ have flown by ten to the dozen before we’re really given pause for breath. The crowd’s reception to each a little louder, a little more enthusiastic. Soggy socks and damp clothing are being slowly forgotten. A little banter with the crowd. Conor announced it was his birthday, as does some girl in the audience called Ali. The crowd breaks into an impromptu version of ‘Happy Birthday’ for them both. As the last line ended Conor looked slightly embarrassed “We should probably play more songs.”
Three or four more songs, somehow the band managed to continue to crank up the energy with each. ‘They Call It A Race’ was in there somewhere. It started getting harder to keep track. The cheers turned to roars. The birthday cake arranged by the band and the crew arriveed on stage. Conor looks slightly embarrassed again.
The feeling of crescendo is palpable during the last two songs, drums louder, everything louder, movements yet more frantic. In ‘I Am Lion’ Neil even manages to leap up on the drum kit for a few bars before diving back to his keyboard to add a keyboard layer to the mathematical groove which is bringing the crowd home. Finally the band allow themselves a little leeway, as ‘Marso Silva’ began with a degree of looseness and a less rigid beat, the crowd seemed almost a relieved to feel the tension in their play drop and heads bobbed as one around the room. One by one Conor, Neil and John put down their instruments as Kevins drumming picks up the slack and each grabs additional percussion. A floor tom, a couple of snares and a cowbell later and everything had gone a bit drum club. Big finish and crowd gave a rapturous display of appreciation.
The band thank the crowd and move off stage to chanting, the predictable demands for more are obliged. At this point this writer had stopped taking notes as he had never seen this band before. ‘Family’ and ‘Auricom’ were played and it was pretty spectacular but vague experience in hindsight. The crowd had pretty much forgotten the rain by then. Cancel plans, rearrange appointments. If they continue to show this sort of form next time you get chance to see them you’ll be seeing them in bigger venue’s for considerably more money. They’re worth the trip, even if it is raining out.