A deceptively old school setting greeted the eyes of those who took their seats for the arrival of Malian musicians Tamikrest. A large curtain draped over the back of the hall, percussion and guitars of all kinds scattered around the stage, a keyboard and... a gramophone?
This wasn't Vaudeville. Rather, it was a hint of the vibrant and virtuous onstage antics that had come from abroad to raise the spirits in Belfast's Elmwood Hall.
Fronted by Ousamane Ag Mossa, Tamikrest were men - and a woman - on a mission.
Literally and figuratively, they were a blend, an alliance of harmonic and melodic messages, on a quest to provide chords of conviction that would delight and enlighten onlookers. On their first visit to Ireland, they certainly achieved that.
A trio of cultures descended upon the Elmwood Hall stage - the Middle Eastern, Western and West African garb would match the tone and feel of the vocals, guitars and percussion respectively throughout the entirety of the evening. Opening with a steady, funky beat that alternately echoed both Jimi Hendrix and Bob Marley, this soon ascended into a cocktail of passionate vocals, booming bass lines and very catchy drum beats that primed and powered up everyone in the hall.
It was a winning combination, tunes that referenced the past and respected the traditions of the band while highlighting positivity, filling the performers and the crowd with unity and belief. Musical genres were switched effortlessly and effervescently, calm contemplative vocals a welcome breather in the midst of up tempo makeovers for country and blues music, and thunderous drums in a sea of soul.
By set's end, the audience no longer needed prompting to clap along and dance.