Chelsea Wolfe live in Belfast

Belfast's Auntie Annie's Porterhouse shuts it doors with a superb final farewell performance from the entrancing indie-folk songwriter Chelsea Wolfe.

There’s an old folk song regaling the pleasures of the pint which claims ‘in heaven there is no beer’. The same could also be said about upstairs in Auntie Annie’s tonight as the kegs have been drained in preparation for its imminent closure. There may not be beer, but there’s whiskey, deep blood-red lighting and astonishingly beautiful music.

Robyn G Shiels is an old hand at opening shows, the signature earthy vocal, picker picking and dry wit feature heavily in a set drenched in death, heartache, loss and brutal honesty. Of the newest song in his arsenal, he says, ‘this is two chords and the fucking truth’. You know where you stand with Robyn. These funeral dirges seem all the more apt tonight as the top bar slowly fills up one last time.

Unlike the reassuring presence of Robyn, we’re not exactly certain what to expect from Chelsea Wolfe. Taller than you’d assume, she cuts an imposing figure on stage, beginning the evening flanked by synths and violin, leading us on a doleful meander through a few tracks from her latest acoustic record ‘Unknown Rooms’. The vocals are haunting, sometimes understated but crystal clear. Aside from the band, there’s not another sound in the place, a reverent hush falls as Chelsea and synth player Ben Chisholm leave the stage while the violin continues its mournful serenade.

Chelsea Wolfe
Robyn G Shiels

Wolfe’s music is often labelled as progressive folk, gloom rock, gothic drone or other such genre defiances. Tonight’s performance is certainly one of two halves. A full band with bass, drums, keys and guitars returns to the stage. It’s like Patti Smith or Neil Young at their grunge best. Instruments layer into a mighty crescendo, staccato drums and thumping bass make the bar reverberate. Every note hits home like a sonic punch to the gut… and as suddenly as it began, it ends.

Like driving through a storm, you find yourself in the quiet and calm looking back at what’s just transpired. It was dark, tumultuous, perhaps edging on the frightening at times by it was exciting and you know you’ll do it all again sometime.

Check out the Shine listings for more shows including This is the Kit, Lucy Spraggan, Ben Howard…