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Sunday, February 16, 2014

Quare craic with The Quireboys and the Ajenda in Ahoghil

FOR those not familiar with the Northern Irish and north Antrim vernacular 'quare craic' can be loosely interpreted from the bastardised Ulster Scots and Gaelic as 'a good time' - and a good time was seemingly had by all at the Diamond Rock Club in Ahoghill as The Quireboys and Ajenda rocked acoustically.

Attitude is everything when it comes to rock 'n' roll, and with stacked amplifiers and bass amps removed stripped down acoustic sets means it is songs and attitude that carry a band through - both local heroes Ajenda and The Quireboys proved they have attitude to spare.

Ajenda are riding high on the crest of a wave with a successful 2013 now dawning into a promising 2014 as they told us when they were preparing for this gig. (Hear the interview here.)

The four-piece quickly hit rhythm with an impressive selection from their previously released eps and d├ębut album Unrecognisable.

While the instrumental Olympus Monz showcased the musical spine in the band, the songs proved their resilience when Jenny's voice was given full rein with Gav's flourishes flowing easily around the tracks.

Stand-out songs - which were already well-known to many of the crowd - were Tattoo, Heaven's Tears and the most recent release from Unrecognisable, Hatred and Greed.

The Ajenda sound adapted well to the acoustic setting, coming across as a delicate blend of laid-back and powerful.

And, when The Quireboys hit the stage it was an equally delicate blend: teetering on the edge of chaos and outstanding performance. Case in point is the focus of the band, Jonathan Gray - better known as Spike. Despite being clearly 'under the weather' this was a pure professional performance.

Routine banter was interspersed with local references to keyboardist Keith Weir's Tandragee, County Armagh roots...and potatoes.

But when the songs flowed this was aural honey. The Quireboys performed with the looseness of a band playing as if they were resident house act and the tightness only achieved by touring and the intricate interplay of professionals.

Guy and Keith managed to keep a boogie woogie 12-bar rock 'n' roll ethos resounding through what for many in the crowd were the mainstay rock themes of their younger years.

From earlier hits through to tracks from last year's Beautiful Curse (Mother Mary particularly noteworthy) The Quireboys have a back catalogue worthy of the international superstars they always deserved to be, and more recent songs that are as instantly memorable.

As Spike told us after the show Beautiful Curse is close to equalling, if not surpassing, sales of their first album, proving their relevance and the sustainability of rock.

Of course There She Goes Again, Hello, 27 Years, Whippin' Boy, 7 O'clock and I Don't Love You Anymore were among the most familiar and most well-received tracks.

But the strength of all aspects of the band was revealed by the poignant love song,  Beautiful Curse. Delivered with passion and with a chorus that resounded across the packed audience.

With a new album from The Quireboys with an expected release in June of this year he evidence is that the band will continue to deliver on that promise of chaos balanced with creative and musical excellence.

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