Thunder/Trucker Diablo – Belfast, Mandela Hall – 31 March 2017 Print E-mail
Written by Mark Ashby   
Saturday, 08 April 2017 04:30

You can always rely on the weather forecasters to get it completely wrong. For example, on this, the last day of March, they predicted cool breezes and the odd squiff of rain (or “light showers” as they like to call them). They completely failed to foresee the massive thunderstorm that was going to break over the city of Belfast later in the evening. Mind you, their colleagues on the travel desks weren’t much better, talking about prangs on the Westlink and shunts on the Lisburn Road but completely ignoring the Big Truck that was delivering massive riffs just a short distance away…


Trucker Diablo - Belfast March 2017


There’s always one thing guaranteed when Trucker Diablo take to the stage – there ain’t no way in hell they ain’t gonna ‘Party Like They Started The End Of The World’… and that’s just what they do, ‘cos it always does exactly it says on the (Newcie Brown) tin when that big truck rolls into town. The crowd is still filing into this subterranean cavern – the fact that TD kick off their set a mere 15 minutes after the doors are scheduled to open, combined with the latter being five minutes late and staff struggling to cope with getting the sold out crowd into the venue – but nevertheless the four mid-Ulster lads ‘Drive’ home party-fuelled riff after party-fuelled riff during their highly truncated set.


Trucker Diablo - Belfast March 2017 - Wide


They slow the momentum down slightly for the menacing ‘Murder Ballad’, which grunts and prowls around the still-filling basement with lascivious intent, before Tom points out that it is Truck has been on the road ten years and invites us to ‘Drink Beer, Destroy’… and, he knows that it’s Friday night AND it’s Belfast – we don’t need a second invitation. ‘The Rebel’ brings this short (just six songs in a little over 20 minutes) but sweet set to a suitably rowdy finale, leaving just the chants of ‘Trucker… Trucker…’ to echo around the room as the last of those produced by the guitars die out.


Thunder - Belfast 1


“I’m not gonna live forever, but that’s alright with me…” It’s hard to believe that it’s almost exactly 20 years since Thunder last headlined a show here in Belfast (a very loud acoustic gig the Empire Music Hall on 9 May 1997 for the forgetful pedants out there who might think it was their Ulster Hall show a few years previously) – but you wouldn’t think it had been so long as Danny bounces on stage filled with youthful energy to be greeted like a returning son coming home after an extended vacation. “Fuck, you’re a noisy lot,” he remarks later in the set: well, we’re only trying to live up to the band’s name, aren’t we?


Thunder - Belfast 2


Ripping (sic) straight into ‘No One Gets Out Alive’, the sound is rich and vibrant, drawing out every nuance of the songs. ‘Enemy Inside’ and ‘River Of Pain’ show that the band are fully prepared to make full use of their extensive back catalogue, while a majestic ‘Resurrection Day’ shows that this a band most definitely enjoying one. As ‘Backstage Symphony’ rises and falls in its crescendos and diminuendos. With Luke pulling all sorts of funny faces beside him, Bowes wrings every ounce of emotion from himself, the band, the songs and the audience: this is no better demonstrated than on the immense ‘Don’t Wait For Me’, which is completed by another wrenching solo workout from Morley.


Thunder - Belfast 3


‘Rip It Up’ may be the title of their new album – and it gets a generous enough airing amid the baying demand for the classics – but that also is exactly what Thunder do each and every time they hit the stage, and tonight is no exception. ‘Love Walked In’ is another majestic example of the band at their best, with every voice in the room threatening to raise the floors of the Students’ Union complex above, leaving Danny and his troubadours to declare that they love us more than rock ‘n’ roll.


Thunder - Belfast 4


Protracted applause finally brings the band back onto the stage (maybe Harry had to find new drum sticks after throwing his into the crowd at the end of the main set) to celebrate the ‘Wonder Days’ which produce truly wonderful evenings such as this. Bowes retains his demeanour of youthful vigour throughout the three-song encore, taunting and teasing us with the consummate ease of a seasoned r’n’r professional before succumbing to what he knows the crowd wants: ‘Dirty Love’ hadn’t even been released the first time Thunder played this city (at the now sadly long-gone Rosetta Bar), but the enduring appeal of both the song and its performers is more than obvious, as the beaming faces from everyone in the room would be enough to make the lighting engineer redundant.


Another great evening of rock ‘n’ roll from one of the truly great British rock ‘n’ roll bands of their time. Let’s not leave it another 20 years before we do it again…


Thunder will play their first Christmas show in four years at the Wolverhampton Civic Hall on 15 December.  If you haven't got a ticket - tough luck:  it's sold out!


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