Belfast Nashville Songwriters Festival 2015, Thursday 5th March.
Mandy Bingham, NJ McCLean & Tony Villiers.
I will apologise now for how bias I will be. Mandy Bingham is my sister. I said I wouldn’t review any of her gigs for obvious reasons but as this was with other performers, I decided to give it a go.
At ‘The Holiday Inn’ Belfast, one of the main venues for Belnash I meet up with my old friend Joe (yes that’s Joe ‘founder of BeardedRadio). He and I haven’t seen each other since I believe 2004. So I was not only excited about the gig but catching up with Joe was a fabulous bonus.
Just before grabbing our seats we order some drinks and Joe kindly buys me my requested wine. Half way through the glass I think oops….. it’s only 6 o’clock.
The lights dim and the guys climb on stage. Mandy and Graham (Mandy’s wonderful husband and musical side kick) are up first. Mandy as always looks amazing in her psychedelic dress and very fancy boots. They begin with ‘If This Is love’. This is a gorgeous song and very sad but probably something everyone at some stage can relate to in his or her life. This was a great start to the show and delighted the crowd.
Next up was NJ McCLean. Noel James has been on the scene for the past couple of years. He says he is just beginning to get to grips with hearing his own singing voice and is now enjoying it. His songs are deep, story-telling melodies. He begins with ‘Magic Moon’ which is the title track for his new album which will be available shortly.
Then we have Tony Villiers. I have seen Tony before about a year ago and I must say his confidence has grown fiercely in that time. Tony has been playing with his band for some years, its only in the last couple he has ventured out on his own. His debut album ‘Thin Wild Mercury’ has received fantastic reviews. Tony began with ‘Jesus Was A Rolling Stone’. It is a fab song, thoroughly enjoyed it as did everyone else and it certainly brought a bit of foot tapping to the show.
Back to my favourite performer of the night.. Mandy, singing ‘Oblivion’ which I heard for the first time only last week. Love love love it. Where do the words come from? I envy her but nonetheless I’m incredibly proud of her too. Impressive to say the least and Graham compliments her with his beautiful harmonies. I will stop now and move on.
NJ is up next with ‘Why’. He explained the song was about a man who went missing and was found a few days later dead in a river. Like I mentioned before he is a storyteller. It is clear to see that NJ has a special relationship with his guitar as he disappears into the instrumental sections of his songs.
Tony then entertains us with ‘The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea’ from his next album which is due out in the summer. He accompanied himself with his guitar, adding the harmonica which went down down a storm.
Mandy then sang ‘Turn’, soon to be her new single. This is a fabulous song inspired by her hatred of football, unlike Graham who had settled himself down nicely for the World Cup. This song is one that will engrain itself in your head and you wont forget it in a hurry. I catch my 6yr and 8yr olds singing this tune all day, every day since introducing them to it last week. I’m so excited for the release of Mandy’s new EP and can’t wait until everyone can hear it.
It’s nearing the end of the show and luckily everyone gets to gift us with another song.
Mandy surprises everyone with one of her ‘happy songs’ known as ‘The Chicken Song’. I love to perform this as a party piece, with her permission obviously!! ‘I want a lover that’s forever and a cottage by the Sea,’ what more could you ask for in life? A thrilled audience offer their appreciation at the end and I am sure Mandy and Graham were delighted with their own performance and the reception they received.
NJ finished off with ‘Do You Ever’ and once again another story was to be told, losing himself in his lovely style of guitar playing. I enjoyed watching him play, NJ is what you could call a subtle performer. The audience enjoyed his songs and I believe there were a few of his followers in the crowd. I look forward to seeing what he’s up to next.
Last but certainly not least is Tony with ‘Rabid dog Blues’. Yes you read that correctly. Did I mention Tony loves Bob Dylan and does lots of tribute style shows. I think he even looks like him.
Great show, great performances from Mandy, NJ McCLean and Tony Villiers. Joe and I had to go our separate ways afterwards but hopefully it wont be as long till we catch up again.
Well done ‘Belnash’, I am looking forward to next year already.