It isn’t every night you get a chance to see a living legend in Belfast. So, as soon as the news broke that The Out to Lunch Festival had booked Booker T. Jones, I quickly noted the date in my brand spanking new 2015 gig diary. The Black Box in Belfast was packed out with people eager to be a part of this special intimate show with the Stax Records legend. Early on the excitement was clear for all to see as the eager audience got as close to the venue’s stage as possible — making for challenging conditions for the not-so-dainty festival photographer to work in.
As soon as the band hit the stage, the hits started coming. An early highlight was “Theme from Hang E’m High” — one of Clint Eastwood’s first westerns — and it got a rapturous response, as did “Green Onions”, which saw some audience members reaching new levels of personal ecstasy. Meanwhile, somewhat more amusingly, it also saw sparks and ash trails from smokers rushing in from outside, after having been caught out by the early appearance of the tune in the set list. There were covers tonight too, as Booker T. lifted up his Fender Telecaster and moved centre stage to delight us by singing a re-arranged and stripped-back version of “Purple Rain”, along with his versions of “Hey Joe” and “Knocking on Heaven’s Door”. (He informed us he played bass on the latter during Bob Dylan’s recording session.)
The show continued with more hits. “Melting Pot” was sublime and “Soul Limbo” almost lifted the roof of the Black Box, as the audience erupted with delight at hearing the opening beat played on the cow bell. This night, it also featured a very impressive drum solo, which worked very well in the arrangement. “Time is Tight” heralded the beginning of the end of the show, and the frenzy of the audience continued unabated. Fuelled by drink and classic tunes, this lot didn’t want to go home. As the night ended with a medley of ”Hey Ya / Loving You Too Long”, the calls for more and the whistles and cheers showed no sign of abating.
This show was part of the Out to Lunch Festival, which continues to run throughout the month of January, providing high quality entertainment for low cost prices.
Photo by Gerry McNally.