Friday 18th November 2016
No Alibis Bookshop, Belfast

It’s a cold winter night in Belfast as we make our way past the hostelries and revelers on Belfast’s Botanic Avenue to the warmth and comfort of No Alibis Bookshop.

Tonight’s treat nestled amongst the bookshelves is a live show featuring Brigid O’Neill and Matt McGinn.

Comfortably seated between a collection of Roald Dahl and Tintin books we get to enjoy the opening set by the very young, but rather talented guitarist and singer Cian McGrory. He’s 16 we are told, but he looks much younger and is far too young to be so talented. He’s a nimble blues picker as demonstrated by his playing on two classics ‘Trouble In Mind’ by Lightning Hopkins and ‘King Bee’ by Muddy Waters.

His cherubic looks amusingly contradict the subject material of the latter of the two songs, but he carries them both off with only a small hint of nerves in his voice.  Given time young Master McGrory will be a serious player. He also tells us his love of ‘King Bee’ was inspired by his mother giving him a Muddy Waters record. Surely parenting skills such as that must qualify for kind of reward?

Brigid O’Neill and Matt McGinn take to the stage next and it’s clear to see the pride in Brigid’s face after her son’s performance. A brief technical issue with Matt’s iPad leads to a joke about technology not beating good old fashioned pen and paper. Delay over, they launch into ‘Wrong Time, Wrong Place’ from Brigid’s latest EP Arrivals and Departures’.

It’s been a busy year for Brigid; she’s been to Nashville and gigged all over Northern Ireland with Matt and others. She’s also been writing a lot of new songs and we are lucky enough to get to hear them tonight as they get road tested before recording. ‘Running Back To You’, co-written with Matt is an early arrival in the set as is ‘They All Said’, which Brigid confesses she sang in the wrong key. Did we notice? No. We loved it.

Another co-write, this time with Gareth Dunlop delivered the captivating country blues ‘Iron In Your Fire’.

There’s creativity in Brigid’s writing as evidenced on ‘Helium Balloon’ which was inspired by a run of multiple family birthday parties and left over helium balloons floating around Brigid’s house.

‘Pilot’s Weather’, inspired by a comfort break in a friend’s house who goes hang gliding and ‘Midweek Magic Club’, which is a sassy jazz tune that took its inspiration from a long-running event in Belfast’s Black Box.

The two piece set up with Matt on guitar and vocals works well and there’s a natural chemistry between them.  At one point Brigid praises not only his musical skill but also his ability to find a 24-hour fast food outlet at 3am on the drive home from a show.

Another new song ‘Touchstone’ was written in Nashville with Thomm Jutz, who is probably best known as Nancy Griffins’s guitarist. While Brigid is initially apprehensive about doing it, the audience loves it.

All too soon the show finishes with another audience favourite, ‘You’re Never Going To Get To Heaven’ again taken from ‘Arrivals and Departures’.

As we step out into the cold Belfast night we really appreciate the work of small independent venues like No Alibis and the support they give to local musicians such as Brigid by allowing her to perform and to share her quality material with a wider audience.