Host Patrick Kielty was keen to use “give it up!” to introduce almost all the acts appearing in this Belfast concert to celebrate the end of the Music Live festival, but it would perhaps have been better to direct it at some of the performers.
Bob Geldof, for one, should certainly be encouraged to quit. Because of his work with Live Aid in 1985, Sir Bob has wrongly been thought of a major musician of that era but his flame burned out long before after a flurry of success with the Boomtown Rats. And it was wise of him to choose songs from that era to play (I Don’t Like Mondays, Rat Trap and a cover of Thin Lizzy’s Boys Are Back in Town), otherwise nobody would have recognised what he was playing. But even then poor acoustics and the way Geldof strained unsuccessfully to inject emotion into his hits withered the display.
But Geldof was remarkably one of the better singers on a night that embraced mediocrity. Ronan Keating and Liam, the singer with Hothouse Flowers who still make a living from a one chart single 17 years ago, glued together their meagre talent in a performance that would be more suited to the bland environs of a wedding. Indeed, as Liam indulged in a flute solo, the song was such a condescending marketing man’s abasement of traditional Irish music you half-expected a troupe of children dressed as leprechauns to prance across the stage.
Jamie Cullum brought his diluted jazz to the arena and tried far too hard to add some danger to his harmless musings by playing the piano manically with his backside to conclude his first song; much like Garth Brooks fruitlessly sought to add an edge to country music by tossing water about the stage. But when he just sat down calmly and played a cover of U2’s All I Want Is You, he was far more palatable.
Dreary performances ensued from Katie Melua, Alanis Morissette, Zucchero (lazily labelled as the Pavarotti of Pop because he is fat and Italian) and a traditional Irish band whose meandering twitters served the purpose of clearing away the crowds at the end. And the soulless expressions worn by Westlife during their routine were not so much vacant as signalling vacancies for any dispossessed spirit floating about the ether looking for a new home.
In between the acts, Kielty engaged in some insipid dialogue, but it did feature a moment of hilarity when former Boyzone member/reality TV harlot Shane Lynch told Kielty “it was only celebrities” at The Games.
The only bright spot came in a storming show from Ash, though as they were playing to Westlife’s crowd they may have been forced to sacrifice one of their own abrasive tunes for a cover of The Undertones’ classic Teenage Kicks. Otherwise, the featured acts aspired to nothing more than to provide something the undemanding audience were only too keen to lap up.