On Wednesday the 23rd of August I headed to The Boucher Road Playing Fields, Belfast for the first show of Belfast Vital 2017. Belfast Vital is an annual two-day music festival, made up of two single day concerts, in Northern Ireland that currently takes place in The Boucher Road Playing Fields, Belfast. The first show was being headlined by Muse with support from Biffy Clyro, Nothing But Thieves and Fangclub. I also attended the first day of Belfast Vital 2016 last year which featured Red Hot Chili Peppers as the headliners, you can check out my review of that show here.
The venue for the festival is a giant field, and it was filled with food stands, drink stands, merchandise stands, bars and this year there was even a Ferris Wheel. There was a large security presence on-site – every precaution possible was taken to ensure the safety of attendees. There was a pit area in front of the stage which required wristbands to get into, which helped to divide up the crowd. The stage itself was massive. Unfortunately, there was no VIP section this year, the impressive VIP Bar, The Vital, from last year was nowhere to be seen, a shame but it did not take much away from the festival. The weather wasn’t the best, cloudy with hints of sunlight here and there, but at least it did not rain heavily at any point during the show. Thousands of attendees had already arrived by the time the first band took to the stage.
Dublin’s alternative rock heroes Fangclub kicked off proceedings, opening their set with ‘Inside Joke’ off their ‘Coma Happy’ EP released back in 2016. They played a newer track next, ‘Better To Forget’, which is on their debut self-titled album released earlier that month and they’ve just released a music video for it. When I first caught the band live back in 2015, opening for Nothing But Thieves (check that out here), who were set to take to the stage after them yet again, I said that they were ‘ones to watch’ and I think it goes without saying that I was right. As their set went on the 3 piece, accompanied by an extra guitarist, won over more and more of the crowd. ‘Dreamcatcher’ was accompanied by a little smoke and they introduced themselves before playing ‘Follow’. A welcome addition to their live set came in the form of another new track off their debut album, ‘Lightning’, a track I am a big fan of. They finished their set off with two of the oldest songs in their repertoire, the grungey sound of ‘Role Models’ and the anthem that is ‘Bullet Head’. Fangclub are still, a band that you should be watching: 8/10.
English alternative rock band Nothing But Thieves took to the Vital stage next. They crammed 11 songs into their set, mostly cuts from their debut self-titled album and a couple of new songs off their second album ‘Broken Machine’ which had not been released yet (it is, however, available now). They received a very good response from the crowd with fans screaming in delight before they had even started playing the first song of their set ‘Ban All The Music’, a standout, riff-heavy, track off their debut album. A new track ‘I’m Not Made By Design’, off of ‘Broken Machine’, showcased vocalist Conor Mason’s impressive range. ‘Itch’s catchy as ever chorus got an audible amount of the crowd singing along. ‘Sorry’ is so incredibly catchy you’d forgive me for thinking that it is off their first album and not their new one, the bridge section being simply outstanding. ‘Excuse Me’s chorus simply sounded as massive as ever, with the added effect provided by the smoke machines during it being a nice touch, the band jammed out the outro to cheers from the crowd. The band rounded out their set with the massive hit that is ‘Trip Switch’ and ‘Amsterdam’ the lead single off of ‘Broken Machine’. As expected Nothing But Thieves were a good support act, and Conor Mason continues to have an incredibly impressive set of pipes, both on record and live: 7/10.
I saw Biffy Clyro play the 3Arena in Dublin back in November, seeing them live was something I had waited far too long to do, you can check that review out by clicking here. It was pretty obvious before the band had even taken to the stage that a large portion of the crowd was at Vital for them alone. The massive stage production they had back in November was absent but it didn’t take much away from the set. Their set felt like a condensed version of the set they played in the 3Arena, anything even close to filler was gone, instead, they spent their hour-long set just playing hit after hit, and banger after banger.
Biffy Clyro’s members arrived on stage already topless and kicked their set off with the thundering ‘Wolves of Winter’ off their latest album ‘Ellipsis’, which the crowd shouted the “we are the wolves” part of, before the thumping intro of ‘Living Is a Problem Because Everything Dies’, off 2007’s ‘Puzzle’, set the pace for the rest of their set. The first big sing-a-long of the night came in the form of ‘Biblical’, off 2013’s ‘Opposites’ and the crowd was even louder for ‘Bubbles’ off of 2009’s ‘Only Revolutions’. The sing-a-longs just kept coming with ‘Black Chandelier’. The crowd was at its liveliest, as they screamed, clapped, jumped and moshed, during the headbang-inducing anthem that is ‘That Golden Rule’. Afterwards, vocalist Simon Neil gave a shout out to their Belfast fans by saying that “every time we come here we’ve the best time, no exceptions’. ‘Re-arrange’ was more laid back than anything else in their set and it was not as warmly received by the crowd.
As expected ‘Mountains’ generated a large sing-a-long before they played the intense and atmospheric ‘9/15ths’ off ‘Puzzle’, an unexpected song choice given how short their set was. After ‘Animal Style’, Simon commented on two things, the festival, by calling it ‘a day of next level rock n’ roll’, and the weather, by saying ‘blue skies in Belfast, what the fuck’. The biggest sing-a-long of their set was during ‘Many of Horror’, the crowd sang the first chorus of it solo, with no need for Simon to open his mouth at all. Simon reminded the crowd who they were by shouting, ‘we are Biffy fucking Clyro’, before finishing their set off with ‘Stingin’ Belle’ and as they jammed out its heavy outro they received a huge applause from the crowd. Biffy Clyro showed that they don’t need an over the top stage production to impress live, because they need only their songs and talent to do so: 10/10.
Muse kicked off their headlining set with recent single ‘Dig Down’. Their stage production consisted of flashy rotating screens behind the band members and tonnes of lasers that lit up the festival. Frontman Matt Bellamy arrived on stage wearing glasses with LEDs and his guitar was also lit up by more LEDs. Shouts of ‘I sir’ signalled the start of the second song of their set, ‘Psycho’, off their latest album 2015’s ‘Drones’, which a noticeable amount of the crowd was jumping and singing along to. The crowd erupted into life as soon as the opening riff of ‘Hysteria’, off 2003’s ‘Absolution’. was played. It was followed by one of the oldest songs in the set, ‘Bliss’, off 2001’s ‘Origin of Symmetry’. An unexpected surprise came in the form of a live rarity, ‘Assassin’, off 2006’s ‘Black Holes and Revelations’, which was well received by the crowd. Matt took to the keys for ‘The 2nd Law: Isolated System’. Another live rarity came in the form of the riff-heavy ‘New Born’, which triggered a circle pit near the front of the crowd, the space cleared for the circle pit spent the rest of the song and Muse’s set acting as a mosh pit. During ‘New Born’ the screens on stage displayed footage based on the cover artwork of ‘Origin of Symmetry’.
The crowd started screaming in delight as soon as the opening riff of ‘Supermassive Black Hole’ was played. ‘Mercy’ simply sounded massive live, and as an added bonus confetti cannons and streamers went off during it. During ‘Madness’, Matt’s jacket was lit up and he had his glasses back on, and both the screens on stage and his glasses displayed the lyrics to the song. ‘Dead Inside’ sounded big live with its thumping, hard-hitting, bass line. Before they played ‘Starlight’ Matt dedicated the song to those who had seen them in Belfast the previous year. ‘Starlight’ was the biggest sing-along of Muse’s set and during it, giant white balloons were released into the crowd. They played ‘Time Is Running Out’ next, which was another major sing-along of the set. They finished out their main set off with a creepy and intense performance of ‘Take a Bow’, which was followed by fireworks.
Muse‘s encore consisted of ‘Uprising’, the only song in the set off of 2009’s ‘The Resistance’, and ‘Knights of Cydonia’. Throughout out ‘Knights of Cydonia’ fireworks lit up the sky above the stage, which made for a very strong ending to a very strong set. Muse brought a back catalogue of hits, strong live songs, and a massive stage production to Belfast. For years I’ve been told that Muse are a phenomenal live band, and after their performance at Belfast Vital, I can in no way disagree, because that is what they are live, simply phenomenal: 10/10.
Just like the year before, Belfast Vital 2017 – Day One, showcased incredible live bands and the atmosphere during the festival was once again incomparable to anything else I have ever attended.