Singing and storytelling in full swing as the Commitments star takes to the stage at the Out To Lunch Festival
At this sold-out Bronagh Gallagher gig at the Black Box, the crowd are captivated from start to finish not only by Gallagher's powerful, soulful voice but also her friendly banter. She's happy to be back in Belfast, she says, a city with 'real class'.
Gallagher explains her style of songwriting as storytelling and confesses to the crowd that she is unable to write with others because she is 'probably a control freak' – hence the reason for the six-year gap between her last record Precious Soul and her upcoming new release.
Her songs are full of charming tales and reassuring messages and combine elements of country, soul and blues. The band - Liam Bradley on drums, cousin Coalan McLaughlin on keyboard and Paul Casey on guitar - provide a springboard from which Gallagher can leap.
Not long into the gig she begins a soothing track and manages, with only a little reluctance, to get the crowd singing back to her on a Saturday afternoon before most have consumed the required Dutch courage. Quite a feat.
She introduces each song with the story that inspired the lyrics. The witty Derry actress does impressions of lovers’ tiffs and recalls family experiences. It’s not supposed to be stand-up, but it's not a million miles away from it.
At one point she throws her coat off. 'My Mammy will strangle me,' she yells. "Don’t be throwing your good coat on the floor!" Y’know the way you have a good coat? Do you have a bad coat then too?' she asks.
She casts her jacket away to show off a creation of her own – a turquoise cropped top emblazoned with a garish glittery icon of the Virgin Mary. It’s an homage to her love of Mexico and all things Mexican before she sings 'Mexico', a tale of gangs and love loosely based on a real life experience.
'Johnny Eagle' gets a warm reaction and seems to be a favourite. Here, Gallagher sings in a more traditional country style about meeting a Dublin rocker who wanted to tattoo her before proposing marriage - something his wife was none too pleased about.
Gallagher's boisterous chat and strong Derry accent should probably clash with her resonant, husky and genuinely beautiful singing voice, but it doesn't. It only goes toward making her a unique artist that Northern Ireland should be proud of indeed.