30/09/2010 | Aaron Shanley – No Alibis Bookstore, Belfast

Nichola Eastwood

Possibly the smallest and most intimate gig I’ve ever been to, tonight is the launch party for local talent Aaron Shanley’s debut album, Let The Sun In, which we’re all given a free copy of.  Transforming itself into a random, make shift gig venue for the evening, No Alibis is filled with a promising crowd.  For those lucky enough to grab a seat, there’s barely space for your knees and elbows, it’s not the comfiest I’ve ever been.

Before the night’s main event, a live airing of Let The Sun In, there’s performances from local acts Allie Bradley and Gentry Morris.  Allie (who also lends her vocal talents to Aaron’s debut) opens proceedings with her mellow brand of acoustic pop.  The highlight of the set is the KT Tunstall-esque Mistakes, a catchy, attitude laden track that couldn’t be any more radio friendly if it tried.

Next on this evening’s bill is Gentry Morris, who takes to the stage armed with a series of amusing anecdotes and tunes that would make any artist jealous.  It’s the first real instance of interaction with the crowd tonight and his performance is all the better for it.  He opens his set with Fool’s Gold, catchy and melodic with a chorus that’s simply addictive.  The Box follows this impressive start, taking on a sentimental note.  Gentry leaves the stage with the title track from his new album Awake O Sleeper.  It’s a bright and upbeat conclusion to a set destined to leave its mark on all here tonight.  This is definitely a talent not to be overlooked.

On then to the night’s main event, veering away from the previous two acts theme of acoustic guitar, Aaron Shanley parks himself behind a keyboard to kick his launch party slot off with a piano led number, which he modestly claims ‘might suck’ given that he doesn’t normally play piano.  However, it does anything but.  It’s a refreshing interval from the guitar led tracks thus far and as such gets the audiences attention.

Aaron’s band join him onstage as he dons his guitar for the next track, Coming Down, a catchy tune that sees his razor sharp vocals accompanied by those of Allie Bradley.  The result is a chorus of sweeping melancholy that easily makes the performance a highlight of the night so far.  Cotton Fields is an innocent, childlike tune that the likes of Bright Eyes would be proud of.  A Little Rain and Go Easy are downbeat, mellow numbers that lead Aaron to admit he’s ‘full of sad songs’, even though his chatty stage presence would have you believe otherwise.

Anna Came Along is a shock to the system after the chilled out atmosphere so far this evening, Aaron’s vocals take on a sneering attitude and lean more towards a country vibe.  We’re lucky enough tonight to be privy to an airing of two new tracks, Katie Hello and Next Flight OutKatie Hello keeps the edgier sound evoked by the likes of Anna Came Along, with a heavy bass line and a catchy chorus, it’s just made to lodge itself in your head.  Aaron rounds up his performance with a rendition of Sometimes People Just Fall Out Of Love, a sincere song about love devoid of any of the cheesy pitfalls.

Tonight is certainly a performance that won’t be forgotten anytime soon, besides the strange fact I’ve now actually been to a gig in a bookstore, it’s served as a sharp reminder of the musical talent that is so often overlooked right on your doorstep.  If tonight’s performance of Let The Sun In is anything to go by, then this first album certainly won’t be the last we hear of Aaron Shanley.