Bear’s Den | Gig Review
Limelight, Belfast • Monday 20 March ’17
By Chantelle Frampton
Over the past few years there has been a revival of the British folk genre. No one knows this better than London band Bear’s Den. They have impressively managed to avoid being named a ‘second Mumford and Sons’ by quickly establishing their own signature sound within British folk. They decided to share this with the people of Belfast on Monday night where demand was so high for their show they had to upgrade the venue. Was the upgrade worth it? Well, a sold-out show and a room full of singing fans would suggest the change was a mighty success.
The guys’ set started with a lowering of lights and music that gradually became more and more dramatic over a few minutes. This was incredibly anticipative and really started to get the crowd’s excitement going. After the climatic music, the band entered the room and played the track ‘Red Earth and the Pouring Rain’ from the album of the same title. As soon as the song’s distinctive guitar intro kicked off, everyone was cheering and began singing along.
As soon as they finished their first track they were interacting with the crowd straight-away and put across their appreciation for performing in Belfast. They then went straight into the crowd pleaser ‘Emeralds’ where their perfect harmonies were really given the chance to shine. Throughout their set, they played track after track from both of their albums and there was no doubt everyone knew the words to each and every song from ‘Greenwoods Bethlehem’ to ‘Dew on the Vine’. The inclusion of the banjo and heavy drums added to the folk style whilst not straying too far into ‘Mumford’ territory.
In the middle of the set the band opted to do the new craze of performing a song entirely unplugged. This normally works very well in smaller venues but I was a little sceptical in the Limelight. I was very swiftly proven wrong. Every single person in that venue was silent whilst the guys performed ‘Her Tears’ with a banjo and no microphones. There is something delicately charming when artists pull this off as it shows they do not rely on sound guys or their loud instruments behind them. They can play with minimal music and background sound and still create something beautiful.
I’ve never been to a more chilled out gig in Limelight 1, never mind one that was sold out. With so many people it is difficult to imagine yourself relaxing and becoming so engrossed in the music but somehow Bear’s Den managed to achieve this vibe. ‘Auld Wives’ particularly stood out for me as it gave a real It Follows vibe which really changed the tempo of the set. It is astonishing they can go from ultra-folk to unplugged to the likes of ‘Auld Wives’ and it all fits together perfectly.
Bear’s Den finished on ‘Above the Clouds of Pompeii’ before exiting the stage. Their encore was very different as they did not simply come back on stage and sing some more of their tracks; instead, they opted to do another unplugged song but this time in the middle of the crowd. The camera phones were rife as everyone attempted to get a glimpse of them in the middle of the venue. They chose to sing the beautiful ‘Isaac’ and everyone joined in with the iconic lyrics “I’m going to give all my love to you.” It was a wonderfully intimate moment of the gig and, yet again, showed their diversity as artists.
After a dash back to the stage they finished their perfect set with the one and only ‘Agape’ (what else could it have been?). Everyone was singing their hearts out alongside the guys before the astonishing set drew to a final close. Bear’s Den were flawless from start to finish and firmly placed their stamp in our wee city of Belfast.