BY PETER MCGORAN
I was warned by Lawson’s Joel Peat in an earlier interview not to write the band off as just another boyband and to come, instead, and see them live before making any judgments. So that’s exactly what I did.
The background music dies down and the crowd looks expectantly at the massive white sheet which hangs down from the ceiling of the Ulster Hall. Silhouettes can be seen in the background and there’s a buzz in the audience. All of a sudden, the sheet drops and Lawson are seen blasting their latest single “Juliet” into the 1,000-strong crowd. They’re naturals, even with the magnitude of the audience, Andy Brown’s vocals and the surprisingly taut guitar solos – courtesy of Joel Peat – carry the band through to the next hit, and the next, until it’s been four songs and Lawson have yet to introduce themselves. When Andy finally does, the crowd scream after every word he utters. He thanks us for attending, tells us that they couldn’t have asked for a better end to their “Everywhere We Go” tour, then deliberates with the band on whether the Belfast audience beats the Dublin audience from the night before. This is followed by more screaming, cheering, chanting and photo-taking. Bass player Ryan Fletcher pipes up that he thinks the Belfast audience is better before leading into their new single “Parachute”, a powerful anthem carried by Fletcher and Adam Pitts on drums. Don’t be fooled by their skinny jeans, tight t-shirts/vests and their chiselled good looks, Lawson are out to prove that they more than your average teenage-heartthrob boyband.
With everyone settled in, the band list off an intimidating role of top 40 hits, every one of which is driven by a crowd who seemingly know every word to every song. At this point it’s easy to see the benefit of having this concert in somewhere like the Ulster Hall. The overall atmosphere is improved by the fact that a larger crowd can sing to the high ceilings of this, possibly the finest of Belfast’s concert venues.
“Broken-hearted” and “Everywhere we go” finish the set and the boys get their manager to take a photo of them with crowd in the background, a simple touch but it electrifies the crowd who surge forward to get into the photo. Lawson then walk off stage momentarily to let the crowd cry out for an encore. They return after less than a minute and play one of their oldest (and, admittedly, catchiest) songs, “Standing in the Dark”. The song’s reputation goes before it and the crowd are content to sing along and sway with the music. By the time Lawson leave the stage for the second time, the sincerity of their thanks is felt in every member of the audience.
Looking objectively, (well – more objectively than most of the crowd which was made up mainly of adoring teenage girls who would’ve loved them no matter how they played) I can thankfully say that on top of their boyband good looks, showmanship and live gimmicks, Lawson are, in fact, solid musicians who can put on a hell of a show.