Thursday, October 17, 2019

Two Door Cinema Club – bringing a slice of North Down rock and roll to The Telegraph building on a school night #BIAF19

There was drama aplenty at The Telegraph building last night, the scene of Two Door Cinema Club’s gig that marked the end of their UK and Ireland tour.

The old print hall structure rises theatrically like a purpose built urbex set, with the old floor levels still visible in the walls of the box-like venue now held together by the steel roof-level beams. A blue office door remains suspended seven or so metres above ground level, leaving you wondering who or what lay behind it.

Teenie support band The Wha play to a small audience of hardened fans before indie rock Pillow Queens take to the stage with a short smart introspective set that included their new single Brothers which has a stronger finish than the opening bars predict.

Support acts are kept humble, clearing away their own drum kit and amps while the main act’s techs wearing black pukka jackets (they clearly got the memo about the temperature in The Telegraph) carry the striking red mic stands onto the stage and take the dust covers off a drum kit that makes the support acts’ one look like a toy.

The gap before Two Door Cinema Club is longer than Pillow Queens’ set. There’s time for two nearby couples – who’ve left their kids at home to sneak out on a school night and see if the Ward Park atmosphere can be matched in Donegall Street – to talk about politics, film, theatre and some of the surrounding youngsters’ sartorial choices with the weird guy scribbling on a notepad.

The sound level has been very pleasant up to now. But when, up in his elevated perch, Benjamin Thompson hits the snare drum for the first time – and given his unusual posture, boy can he drive a stick with force into the skin of his extensive percussive kit – the sound wave hits your chest. The faders have finally been turned up to concert setting.

The moving heads in the lighting rig have been reset, retiring the narrow beams that shone down on the support acts, and bringing out the big guns. A voice booms out “Programme Ready … Error Try Again”. Smoke machines bellow out haze to act as a canvas for the impressive light show that is about to begin, making up for the lack of touring set and projections which wouldn’t have fitted the venue and is probably on a ship heading to the US for the next leg of the tour.

Two Door Cinema Club take their positions on stage for the opening number, Talk. Alex Trimble saunters on stage, wearing a blue suit with a mustard polo neck underneath. He strikes one of his nonchalant poses. His affected aloofness is a trademark of the band. There’s more than a whiff of the Pet Shop Boys about his demeanour. When he takes a swill from a large glass of white wine, I’m reminded that the band hail from Bangor. This truly is North Down rock and roll.

The majority of the audience are students in their late teens and early twenties. Some can hold their drink better than others. One woman rises above the crowd, sitting on someone’s shoulders, but has neither the balance nor the dance moves to be forgiven for blocking people’s sight lines of the stage.

“It’s the soundtrack of my childhood,” bemoaned my 14-year-old when I mentioned I was heading out the door to Two Door Cinema Club without them. Given the majority of youths singing along with the older songs like What You Know – though they don’t even have to ask to get the crowd to join in with the lyrically-repetitive Do You Want It All – I’d guess many of those around me had been avid listeners to the band on heavy rotation on Cool FM’s late show. It was noticeable that the more recent material like Satellite was further from the lips of all but the uber-fans when they played a selection of singles from False Alarm.

I last saw TDCC – as the cool people refer to them – at Glastonbury … watching on-demand on iPlayer while ironing one night. The only steam last night was condensation from people’s breath. Couples cuddle, less out of romance, and more out of necessity to keep warm.

The theatre continues as one young woman drops to the ground before the second song is finished. Another nearby lad spends the evening slowly sliding down towards the concrete below him before being nursed upright by his girlfriend. He never did vomit, but the anticipation is etched into the faces of everyone standing nearby, particularly when he managed to “find a quiet place that we could go” on the floor without anyone noticing during Eat That Up, It’s Good For You.

The three front men speak even less than the support acts. They’re here to play not build rapport with the audience. But we’re told that it’s “fucking awesome to be back in Belfast” where the band “cut their teeth playing every pub and club”. And they’re delighted that audiences still come out to see them.

The brick and concrete walls challenge the acoustics. The lyrics are mushy. Jacob Berry’s keyboards are often lost in the wash. But the strobing lights synchronised with the beating drums put on a sensory show. The band’s indie-pop-dance-punk mix is familiar and comforting, like getting your fingers around a cup of warm tea on a cold evening.

Two Door Cinema Club wrap up with the crowd-pleasing Sun and the Belfast audience have shown their love and stayed to the end. There’s no messing about with the ritual of an encore. Twenty songs in 90 minutes and it’s all over five minutes before the 11pm curfew.

Appearing in the Belfast International Arts Festival programme as well as gig listings, the gig attracts old and young, spending the evening cheek by jowl in the all-standing venue. We’ve warmed up, our ears are ringing with the catchy riffs, and we’ve had an evening in the company of the local band named after the lead guitarist’s mispronunciation of the Tudor Cinema in Comber. And no one’s mentioned Brexit. Bliss.

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