The ballroom up above The Windsor Bar in Bangor’s Royal Hotel looks like it’s been the backdrop to many a great night. I’ve no idea which acts may have trodden the boards or who has belted out hits beneath the twinkle of the mirrorball but if those scuffed dancefloor slats and flaking spiral staircases could talk they’d surely proclaim London’s Danny and the Champions of the World to be amongst the best.
Self-titled Champions and surefire contenders for best performance of the 2014 Open House Festival, Danny Wilson and Co. nail that relaxed, whiskey-swigging, Friday night bar-room vibe from the off with the underdog anthem ‘(Never Stop Building) That Old Space Rocket’. It’s as optimistic as country blues is ever going to get sounding fresh and yet harking back to bygone days before we drop a gear into a soulful ‘Cold, Cold World’ and ‘Let’s Grab This With Both Hands’.
Going back a few years to days of ‘Hearts and Arrows’ the fourpiece unleashes ‘The Colonel and the King’ with a fervour Elvis himself would have been proud of. On stage the band are warmed up, on the floor there are hot flushes and the faint hints of dance moves being bust out as Wilson drops hips and raises the tempo. The guitar swaggers between Mick Fleetwood and Slash whilst the enigmatic frontman toys with either being Jim Morrison or Van Morrison. After a brief interlude to congratulate “the best chips in Northern Ireland” he settles for the latter, with a bluesy ‘Darlin’ Won’t You Come In From The Cold’ sounding for all the world like it could have been penned by the gruff East Belfast maestro himself.
Wilson’s never been afraid to wear his heart or influences on his well tattooed sleeve and on top form tonight, he delves into The Champs’ back catalogue prompting a sing-along of ‘Henry The Van’, a Tom Petty influenced ‘Other Days’ without the pomp and brass of the studio version and ‘Restless Feet’ as the crowd well, they get restless feet.
Consummate professionals ‘til the end, The Champions of the World rock out until the doors spill open and The Bangor crowd spill out into the moonlight, refreshed, rejuvenated and ready for one last dance with The Champs.
Review by: Scott Edgar
Open House Festival continues this week with a series of gigs in Bangor Abbey from Foy Vance, Lloyd Cole, Eddi Reader and intimate shows from Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy and Farriers