Live Review: The Strypes – Limelight, Belfast – 18th September

A fair proportion of critics have snarled at the (very) young Cavan four-piece for lacking originality, which is surely unfair given the sheer speed of the Rolling Stones’ bandwagon as they played Glastonbury this year – a band which started as a strictly covers blues band. The Stones hadn’t penned a top five album before the end of their childhood, so in that sense the Strypes deserve some credit.

They also arrived in Belfast’s Limelight 1 off the back of praise from such lofty names as Elton John, Dave Grohl and Noel Gallagher. It isn’t quite 4 yesses from Louis Walsh and the gang, but it’s a start nonetheless.

If such praise isn’t going to their heads, perhaps the same can’t be said for the older gentleman who introduced them, who without a smidgen of irony stated: “Ladies and gentlemen, the most important band in rock and roll, the Strypes!” That remains to be seen, sir, but they certainly haven’t made a bad start for themselves, and after such a solid gig in Belfast the vast majority of the sold out crowd would agree.

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Their keen, youthful ethos was evident in the furious and unrelenting tempo of their performance, which, if becoming any faster would surely have warranted them a name change to the Racing Strypes. Their influences are well documented and come out in their sound – the harmonica riffs carry the sharp blues shrill of a Sonny Boy Williamson number, the guitar solos from Josh McClorey reminiscent of a Jeff Beck era Yardbirds album. And though much of the night draws such comparisons, they are good, refreshing comparisons.

There are also some accomplished covers of Willie Dixon’s ‘Can’t Judge A Book by It’s Cover’ (inspired no doubt by previous renditions of the song by Bo Diddley and the Rolling Stones), and an excellent version of Slim Harpo’s ‘Got Love If You Want It’, which also saw the impressive swapping of instruments by the bands three front men, with bass guitarist Pete O’ Hanlon taking on the role of the horn blowing Slim, producing one of the moments of the night. It’s all delivered with some excellent showmanship, spawned no doubt from the confidence boosts of the tour and the success of their first album ‘Snapshot.’

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They dropped their instruments at the end and strutted off; leaving behind a wave of screeching feedback until some sound guys hurriedly picked them up. A seemingly pre-planned show of 1960s blues bravado (a 2013 health and safety nightmare), also slightly rude considering their instruments were donated by the local music shop in their hour of need. Although they are a rock and roll band, and the diversely aged crowd seemed very satisfied, so they can be forgiven.

No doubt their sound will develop into something else as they get older, but for now at least the Strypes are well worth going to see; if nothing else a very finely tuned rhythm & blues act with some excellent musical knowledge to profess.

Ryan McMurtry

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