By guest reviewer Phil Bailie
THE summer showcase run of Sounds of Northern Ireland was back in Belfast at The Empire last week when Jackkniife, Take the Fifth, Million Dollar Reload and Pay*ola hit the revered venue in Botanic Avenue.
After the support slots warmed the crowd up Million Dollar Reload’s energetic front man, Phil Conalane delivered another charismatic performance.
The band pumped up the crowd playing songs off their debut album 'Anthems of a Degeneration', released in October 2008, to include the fantastic 'Livin' in the City'. M$R delivered a raunchy rock performance with guitar players B.A.M. and Andy Mack showing plenty of stage presence with a host of great guitar solos, whetting the crowds appetite for the final part of the night. By the end of their set, it had become clear that this band deserved to be sharing bills with the likes of BLS, Tyketto and Alice Cooper.
Saving the best for last, Pay*ola, who had recently headlined the Anlassen Festival near Frankfurt in front of no less than 4000 rock fans, stepped onto the stage and opened with the sublime 'The Colour Red'. This direct, driving opening got a great reaction from the crowd as singer Phil McCarroll began to introduce hits off the 'Try Everything Twice' album such as 'I'd rather be Dreaming' and the extremely catchy 'Love It'.
Vocally, Pay*ola were very impressive, as always, and Nick Joseph on lead guitar gave a phenomenal show of his talents, showing plenty of personality as the guys covered the AC/DC classic: 'Riff Raff'.
New songs off the upcoming album (to be released later this year), notably a track called 'Blindside', were also showcased but the band played out to 'Everybody Talks' and, of course, their very own rendition of DC's 'Rock 'n' Roll Damnation'.
There is a school of thought on Pay*ola that say it's a shame the band produce the same thing year in year out, without really pushing to the next level. On the other hand, believe in the phrase “If it ain't broke, don't fix it”...and it certainly isn't broke