They raised the roof at the Black Box on Saturday 7th May. Danny and the Champions of the World first played Belfast a few years back, squeezed into McHugh’s Bar. Seems that gig was soaked in legendary status – those that were there raved and advised that this is one not to miss.

A nod to the old Roald Dahl story (‘Danny, the Champion of the Worl’d – the one where the father and son drug ten dozen pheasants with sleeping pills hidden in raisins – for their own good may I add), the six piece band was formed by Danny George Wilson in 2007, out of the ashes of Grand Drive. A folk/rock belter sound with top notch, tight-knit talent that saw the most recent album ‘What Kind Of Love’ win UK Album of the Year at the Americana Awards in February.

Danny and the Champions of the World
Photo © Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival 2016.

Danny proved they really are champions of the world by scooping UK Americana Artist of the Year too. Despite all the accolades, these are easy going, humble guys. There’s not a hint of arrogance or superiority – just down to earth, damn good fun, rousing musical integrity.

Even loose comparisons to Springsteen and his demi-god status would leave the average artist fearful of the heightened expectations but it’s not far off the mark – and these are no average artists.

Danny Wilson has one powerful voice (you can hear where those Springsteen references come from). It’s high energy, raucously radiant. These are skilled and masterful musicians rolling seamlessly through the set. From the utter concentration on the face of the champ on pedal-steel guitar to the flawless, earthy bass, that hair-raising Hammond sound, to the champ from New South Wales on lead guitar – each championing their art.

However, it’s Danny Wilson who’s frontmanship shines out. A character, with that big-hearted south London accent (was told he’s also a talented tattoo artist in his own right), he makes friends with the audience easily and openly. They love him. Not often you hear a front man ask – ‘any questions?’ Audience interaction ensues – and now we’re now all at Peggy and Lee’s anniversary party. Cute.

Drawing largely from their fifth album ‘What Kind Of Love’ – the one that won Best Album at the UK Americana Awards this year – they have the place pumping. Add to the Album of the Year, Best Song of the Year and Best UK Americana Band of the Year – three times running – and even Best Live Act (runners up to the aforementioned Bruce) and you get the picture and sound. When they next come round to Belfast, be there.

Ideal for long, loud, summer road trips.