Music: Gig on December 1st

American Bar Gig Belfast John T Davis Arthur Magee

I’ve been listening to John T Davis’ record, ‘The Last Western Cowboy’ and it’s great; as good as any Americana record you’ll hear anywhere. It’s permeated by the taste of experience, wisdom and regret that 70 years of hard living on this planet will bring you. John T Davis is an auteur whose documentaries include Shell Shock Rock, Hobo, Route 66 and Power in the Blood. He has a world class reputation and deservedly so. I’ve known John off and on for years, I keep bumping into him at Tescos but our orbits collided when I organised a concert to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of Good Vibrations Records. Shell Shock is a seminal piece of work about the punk period in Belfast and beyond. It cannot be overstated how positive that period was and it also brought the Undertones to the world and that must be a good thing.

John and I performed a gig a few weeks back at the American Bar. It went well and I really enjoyed it. I write songs and the crowd seemed to appreciate them. We’re back again on Friday 1 December and I’m looking forward to it. John looks the part, he has a cowboy hat and boots, blue jeans and shirt with a neckerchief. People look at him and know what they’re getting music wise. For me, it lead me to think about my image, a thought process that lasted all of 2 minutes. I have no image, I can only be me but being yourself is sometimes the hardest thing you can be. We’re constructs of so many cultural impositions, race, religion and psychology that it can take a lifetime to untangle them. In my case that boils down to singing a song about the day I realised I’d never be Cary Grant. I get the audience to sing along the chorus at me, “Hey Hey Fat Boy! Hey Hey Slap Head! Hey Hey Four Eyes!”

I use this song to explain an important point. If people in Belfast like you, they insult you. I love the rhythm to life here, there’s a constant conversation or ‘banter’ as we call it which seeks elevate the drudgery of a grey day into something to be enjoyed. I also love the vitality and creativity here that hits you in all areas of the arts. There are wonderful songwriters and musicians. Local radio is a wonderful way of hearing superb talent. We have our own vibrant theatre scene with world class, writers, performers and theatre groups. Local theatre is speaking in a local voice. It’s not Belfast as seen through the eyes of someone from London, Dublin or Holywood and that was what was so great about the film, ‘Good Vibrations’ – the life story of my friend Terri Hooley. It spoke for and about us but it didn’t speak down to us. It managed to capture the essence of Terri and Belfast, how you can both love and hate it at the same time. Which brings me back to music. Did I tell you I’ve written a song about being a bald, fat bastard with glasses?

John T Davis & R T Magee, American Bar, 65-65A Dock Street, Belfast, Friday 1 December 2017 at 8.00 pm. Tickets are available at the door for £7.50.