Lionize/Skypilot – Belfast, Voodoo – 7 August 2017 Print E-mail
Written by Mark Ashby and The Dark Queen   
Thursday, 10 August 2017 04:30

It must be disheartening for a band, and especially one which has travelled across the Atlantic, to turn up at a venue and find themselves playing to just a handful of people. Unfortunately, I have seen such occasions before: to be honest, they usually have involved fairly unknown bands, dipping their toe in the water of international adventuring… but, I didn’t really expect it with a band with a decent reputation, and who had received a more than decent reception on their previous visit to this little corner of the Überverse.


It’s hard enough to tempt people out on a Monday night, especially on a rain-sodden one, but on this occasion it must have been the Bloodstock factor: with about half of Belfast’s metallians heading over to Catton Hall just a couple of days later, many probably decided to save their hard-earned pennies and catch the band there… which is a real shame, not least for the promoter who took a risk on staging this gig in such circumstances – and also for the bands, it has to be said, both of whom nevertheless manfully stepped up to the plate and played as if the room was bunged to overflowing.


Skypilot 1


There are less than a dozen punters in the room when they start their set when local groovers Skypilot plug in: to be brutally honest, I’ve seen them play to half that number, but these guys are just happy to be on stage, and the paucity of the crowd helps their big booming sound fill every corner and crevice of the smoke-filled club. Gareth’s thick bass lines intertwine with Dave’s dense but Spartan guitar melodies, whith the staccato riffs perfectly matching the snap of Garry’s snare, which in turn drives forward the punchy rhythms.


As referenced, the band don’t seem to care who is present, as they draw the few (we happy few) that are present into the warmth and richness of their stoned-out classic metal groove, with its moments of mellowness counterpointed by huge, crashing moments of restrained violence in a beautifully crafted set which is as sublime as it is immersive.


Skypilot 2


There’s a remarkably long turnaround between the support and the headliners, contributed partly to by the fact that Skypilot have to strip down their kit and have it replaced by that of Lionize, who also have their keyboards to set up on the tiny stage, which could not accommodate all the gear simultaneously. However, there is also a lengthy period of just background music, punctuated by Chris Brooks fiddling with his organ (not in that way, you dirty-minded lot!): maybe they were waiting for the venue to fill up as their allotted stage time approached; if so, they hoped in vain, as the numbers struggle to stray into the low double figures…


Lionize 4


It’s not hard to tell that frontman Nate Bergman is a performer confident in his own skin: he needs to be – either that or he has a gigantic set of steel cahonies mixed with a very wicked sense of humour – as he walks to the stage in matching gold lamé T-shirt and trousers! It definitely is one of those evenings! With Brooks and drummer Chase Lapp also co-ordinating their outfits – simple red Tees this time – a lengthy jazz intro prequels the massive swell of the opening salve of swirling keys, underpinned with grooves thicker than the venue’s Victorian brick walls.


With the release of new album ‘Nuclear Soul’ still a month away, a little under half of the material aired tonight is unfamiliar to the sparse audience, but it is clear that those who have made the effort are true fans, as they quickly get into the vibe of the gig. With Brooks’ keys interacting and entwining with Bergman’s guitar, and Hank Upton’s deep throbbing bass lines keeping the bottom end heavy as fuck while also weaving intricate jazz patterns, it’s an hypnotic effect. As the gig goes on, the Hammond – and, by fuck and all the gods doing so, I just love that sound – swells, ebbs and flows around Lapp’s thumping drum patterns and Upton’s delicacies of delight, which in turn are counterpointed by the crashing crescendos of Bergman’s guitar, which bounces in and out of the atmospherics around it with the subtlety of a flyweight boxer with a championship-winning blow in his sights.


Lionize 5


The band mix moments of light and shade with frenetic passages of extended extrapolation, which in turn contrast with elongated of aspects of introspection in a way which should clash and butt, but blends naturally in an organic and natural manner. Despite the tiny crowd, they play with a fierce, committed energy, and reward the dedication of their Norn Irish fans with the Gary Moore-era Lizzy vibe of ‘Fire In Athena’, one of the highlight tracks of their abovementioned new album.


It's a refreshing experience to see a band ignoring the circumstances and just kicking out those jams and getting on with the business in hand, which is entertaining those who have paid their hard-earned cash to support them. Yes, it was a (very) disappointing turnout, but, hey, it’s rock ‘n’ roll and we all love it – as Lionize proved tonight. Here’s to the next time lads (well, you did promise a return visit, didn’t you?).


Lionize play the Sophie Lancaster Stage at Bloodstock at 8pm tomorrow (Friday).


PHOTO CREDIT: All photos © The Dark Queen/ Über Rock. You can view our full gallery of photographs HERE.


All content © Über Rock. Not to be reproduced in part or in whole without the express written permission of Über Rock.