Belfast Telegraph

Nine Below Zero: Veterans can still cut it live for loyal fans

By Andrew Johnston

With arts budget cuts threatening the future of Belfast's Out to Lunch festival, Saturday night's sold-out show at the Black Box in Belfast must have been cause for celebration for the organisers.

And the crowd was in the mood to party too.

The full house had assembled to see music veterans Nine Below Zero, firm favourites on these shores since their debut Belfast gig in 1981, which famously sparked a riot when people without tickets couldn't get in.

Now older, greyer and carrying a little more weight, the reunited original line-up nevertheless haven't lost the power to bust out high-energy rhythm and blues. That's r 'n' b, as opposed to R&B, in case you were worried we were in hip hop-infused, drum machine-backed, melismatic-sung territory.

Despite looking like underworld enforcers who should be collecting protection money from market-stall traders in London's East End, the only thing Nine Below Zero extorted from the Belfast audience were dance moves.

Happily, there were no rows of chairs or cabaret-style seating getting in the way of punters shaking their stuff.

From opening track Don't Point Your Finger at the Guitar Man to a closing jam on Fleetwood Mac's Albatross, it was one tooth-shattering nugget after another for nearly two hours.

High points along the way included the ruthlessly catchy Three Times Enough and Driving Down a One Way Street, as well as the closest thing Nine Below Zero came to a hit, the mod-tinged Eleven Plus Eleven.

The latter sounded as fresh as when the same four musicians - guitarist and vocalist Dennis Greaves, harmonica player Mark Feltham, bassist Brian Bethell and drummer Mickey Burkey - performed it on the pilot episode of classic sitcom The Young Ones.

The entire set was made up of the sort of songs you find yourself singing along with after the first chorus, and indeed, long after you've left the gig.

"Keep music live," urged Greaves during one of the band's rare breathers between numbers, and in Nine Below Zero's capable hands, it certainly has a few more years above ground yet.

Four stars

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