‘Where’s the rain now?’ Foy Vance tempts fate as he and his band take to the stage and well and truly get day two of Tennent’s Vital underway. It’s been over six years since Foy released his debut Hope and immediately we are treated to the spirited ‘Closed Hands, Full of Friends’, a brand new track of the new album Joy Of Nothing. It is rare to see Foy in such a huge venue but his soulful voice is quite a weapon and this Bangor based troubadour eases into his set and rewards those that made the trip down a little earlier with an assured performance. The crowd is in fine fettle despite Foy goading the rain into making a reappearance. With ‘Shed a Little Light’ the audience engages in a little sing along and any doubts that the weather will be a dampener on todays proceedings have been unfounded. Foy closes with an excellent cover of ‘I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For’ and a rousing rendition of ‘Guiding Light’.
Barely thirty minutes pass when Kodaline, who have been selling out shows all across the United Kingdom and Ireland, pick up where Foy left off. Currently the darlings of the burgeoning music scene in Ireland, they receive a massive reception here. Despite some early jitters, the boys from Dublin soon find their feet and exhibit some fine material from their critically acclaimed debut album with ‘High Hopes’, ‘Love Like This’ and ‘All I want’ being notable highlights of an impressive performance.
We take a break from the Irish monopoly to zip across the Atlantic with Jason Mraz. Making an understated arrival, strolling on to the stage strumming his acoustic guitar as ‘Song For A Friend’ kicks off a massive set replete with feel good tunes and soulful melody. Jason has a huge entourage with him and the multitude of percussion and brass accompaniment really adds to the overall sound and scale of the set laid out for us. Despite the initial lukewarm reception, Jason soon wins the crowd over with songs that are performed with such earnest and depth in meaning. ‘The Remedy’ continues the positive aura and with ‘You F**kin Did It” we have some outrageous guitar/drum stick interplay that bamboozles State and most of the audience. He finishes up with a wonderful medley of his biggest hit I’m Yours’ and ‘Three Little Birds’ just as the rain starts back up again. It didn’t take long to win the crowd over and his motivating spirit was just what was needed with this delectable Northern Irish weather.
Tonight sees Snow Patrol play their only gig anywhere in the world this year, with the promise of a few classics that would have been ignored throughout their hugely successful Fallen Empire tour. ‘Hands Open’ gets the evening off to a fine start with with Gary jumping around the stage with his unmistakably infectious grin.‘Take Back The City’ might not be an outstanding example of songwriting nous but it’s a love letter to Belfast and it means so much more when its played here, it’s our wee band and it gives us such a positive identity.
With ‘Run’ Gary Barely needs to sing a word, everyone in Boucher is in fine voice and it’s heartwarming to hear ten thousand voices in unison. Despite the rain, which has developed into a downpour has not affected the euphoric reception and with ‘How To Be Dead’ and ‘Spitting Games’ it seems a distant memory that Final Straw was pegged their last chance gasp for success. Hit after hit is rolled out in a heavyweight set with the lovelorn ‘Chasing Cars’ arguably receiving the biggest cheer.
Whilst the night is full of joy, Gary does inform the crowd that longtime member Tom Simpson will be leaving the band to pursue a solo career, it’s a bittersweet farewell and the rapturous ‘Fallen Empires’ with a whopping ten musicians is dedicated to him, probably the finest tribute one could hope for in front of your home crowd. ‘Open Your Eyes’ closes a spectacular night. Well, before the encore anyway. Returning with a cup of tea, Gary dedicates a spirited performance of ‘Lifening’ and ‘Just Say Yes’ to his father and finally, to the crowd who had the pleasure of seeing a band at the top of their game – even if it is for one night only.