Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 28 December 2014

Review: Steve Earle, Mandela Hall, Belfast

Real music from a real musician is a real treat

While most of the city were falling over themselves on Saturday night to catch a glimpse of Justin Bieber or Lady Gaga, fans of more sophisticated sounds were at the Mandela Hall.

The aptly named Real Music Club played host to veteran roots musician Steve Earle, and a full house had turned out to escape MTV fever.

American Earle, whose gruff voice sounds more lived-in than ever, delivered three hours of country, blues and Americana.

Much of the set was culled from his latest album I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive, including the brooding Molly-O, about a 19th-century serial killer.

But the 56-year-old lightened the mood with wry humour.

Before City Of Immigrants, Earle announced a “musicology lesson — just in case some of the folk from the Bieber show got in here”. The man-mountain spoke about the bouzouki he was playing and how it’s best not to call it that when going through airport security — “especially in my country, if you’re me”.

Earle’s strident political views were present and correct, with a banner on stage reading ‘We are the 99%’.

Meanwhile, renditions of Copperhead Road and The Galway Girl kept casual fans happy.

This inspired, affecting performance was a superb two-fingers-up to the pop circus unfolding across town.

ANDREW JOHNSTON

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