UB40 + support Gangsters | Review

UB40 + support Gangsters | Review

Feile an Phobail • 11 August ’17

By Tracey Hanby Gray • Photos: Conor Kerr

‘Feile an Phobail’ or the Festival of the People is a gathering of Irelands biggest Summer School & Community Arts Festival running right through 01 – 13 August with a calendar of community events featuring Music, Comedy, Talks, Walks, Theatre, Debate, Visual Arts, Sport & more. There was really no excuse not to get out & get involved in many different locations around Belfast.

Originally established in August 1988 with a purpose to celebrate the positive side of the community, its creativity, energy & passion for the arts & sport during a fractious time in the North’s history. It continues to this day aiming to provide memorable events & entertainment at a price that the majority of the community can afford.

The first Féile opened with a relatively humble parade of floats, bands & GAA clubs walking in their club regalia to an open-air party in Dunville Park. Street parties were organised throughout the West. Door-to-door collections were made to fund day trips to the seaside for pensioners & outings for young people. Proving from its humble beginnings to play an important role in their community.

It has since grown with strong support & funding from The Arts Council, The National Lottery, Belfast City Council & Tourism Northern Ireland guaranteeing a feast of free & reasonably priced events. This festival should remain a strong fixture in your annual calendar of events to come.

Also a worthy mention was the strong message of support for their language Partner- ‘Foras Na Gaeilge’ an organisation responsible for the promotion of the Irish language North & South set up following the Good Friday agreement. Facilitating speaking ‘As Gaeilge’ in public places across the border whilst aiming to revive our mother tongue, now a minority language nationally.

As I made my journey on the M1 to Belfast to attend one of their signature events ‘Live at the Marquee’ situated in the Falls Park, my mind wondered in a nostalgic journey of my first introduction to the legendary band UB40.

My dad was a big vinyl man introducing me to all types of music educating me in all possible genres but he especially loved Reggae. He used to say it allowed all types of people to meet without prejudice and talked about attending many a reggae party in London as a young man.

One of these bands he loved was UB40. I remember him playing their greatest hits CD many times in our kitchen & caught him doing his famous dad dance. This band has been in my life since they started in 1978. A testimony to their music’s power to transcend generations as I excitedly make my way across the border to see them play live for the first time in my life. Another bucket list moment for sure.

Starting their career in Birmingham, UK, they have had many chart successes internationally including my favourite tracks ‘Here I am’ ‘KingstonTown’ ‘One in Ten’ and of course their well known crowd pleaser ‘Red Red Wine’. These were of course the songs I was looking forward to hearing live.

The Falls Park was transformed with the presence of a huge circus like marquee with the capacity for at least 5,000 attendees. But take heed of this advice for next year. Note to self, consider wearing your festival wellies instead of your favourite pink converse runners.

Logistically very well laid out with ample food & drink stalls and a strong presence of experienced event management staff, this was a well organised event with the makings for a very memorable night ahead.

After a slightly delayed start, Gangsters took to the stage to open their support slot to a rapturous welcome from the assembled crowd of a near full tent. A mix of generations & cultures, dad was right, Reggae does have the power to bring all types of people together.

Also, much to my welcome surprise, was to see my friend Grainne Mellon up on stage playing her Bass guitar with this Dublin band (originally formed in 1991) a proud moment to witness indeed. This 8 piece band headed up by Pat Colton, also known as ‘Coco’ played a really enjoyable set of their upbeat music, a blend of ska & punk. Also a nice touch by the lead singer was launching two Gangster T-shirts into the audience at the end of their set. I haven’t seen an old school gesture like this in years!

Next up of course was the anticipated 10 piece UB40 band with Ali, Astro & Mickey. Opening their set list with their anthem ‘Here I am’ which was welcomed by everyone singing & dancing. Especially noticeable was all the men dancing. No judgements here. You could dance like your dad if you wanted to! One thought did strike me during their set was Reggae an early influence in the development of modern day RAP music? I think so. How many other great artists have been influenced by this legendary band.

They continued on playing many songs from their huge back catalogue including my favourite classics such as ‘One in Ten’ and ‘Kingston Town’ playing for at least an hour & half.

Returning back onstage for the obligatory encore, it was opened by an outstanding lengthy Drum roll by their drummer welcoming back the band members for another 4 encore songs. One of which was the Elvis classic ‘Falling in love with you’. In that single moment I was brought back again to my youth, but this time as a teenager in a bar being serenaded by a then boyfriend telling me through the music he loved me. Admittedly this romance was short-lived after that moment but again it proves that a song can bring you back to a time & place in your life once you can connect with its lyrics. Shaping so many people’s lives through their musical journey in life. Music is that powerful.

Finally their last song was of course the most anticipated song of the night ‘Red Red Wine’ resulting in the whole place erupting into song & dance, a sight to behold. It’s not surprising that Feile 2017 brought back UB40 for a 2nd visit for this reason alone. People connecting together through the power of music. Thanks for a lifetime of musical memories UB40 & for a concert that my dad would have been both proud and jealous.

Written by: Tracey Hanby Music Promoter ‘Gigs Ireland’ & Dundalk FM broadcaster ‘100% Irish’ & ‘Gigs Ireland presents The Takeover’
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(written with special memory of David Hanby RIP+ 22 December 2016)

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