Joshua Burnside – live at the CQAF Marquee, Belfast

May 2, 2023

In 2018, he was artist-in-residence at the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival, working his chops and winning friends. This year, Joshua is the headliner dude in the big marquee. Surprising, eh?

Well, not if you’ve seen him at the Elmwood Hall in 2021 or witnessed the sold-out hallelujah in the Ulster Hall, last December. Sometimes he looks like an endearing shambles, but Joshua’s art doesn’t fail and the curve is ever-excellent. Here then, are ten good things about the show:

  1. Hey, it’s just about summer, although the singer jokes about the chill of the evening and the inappropriate clothing of his guests. We step outside to see if there’s an actual marquee moon, but sadly, we’re four days early and it’s merely waxing gibbous (82%). Shiver.

    Ben Flavelle-Cobain, Joshua Burnside, Zarah Fleming by Stuart Bailie

  2. As you know, the band has a beautiful, evolving groove. Hints of Afrobeat, glints of Remain in Light era Talking Heads. Plus mesmeric trad. Props to Conor, Dan, Zarah and Ben.

    Joshua Burnside by Stuart Bailie

  3. The lyric from ‘Late Afternoon in the Meadow’ when the departed soul returns to his Nissan motor and reverses back through an unfortunate, fated existence. Brilliantly meta.
  4. ‘Whiskey, Whiskey’. The plane lurches and the stomach flips. Always a moment.
  5. ‘Under the Concrete’ and a childhood escape that almost happens. But instead of a Huck Finn ramble, the singer is drilling down into the earth, compelled by evil forces. Or something.
  6. The song about imminent fatherhood isn’t one of his best, but the line “I enjoy hoovering the car”, is a prelude to a panic attack that David Byrne might value.
  7. Laura Quirke, tremendous at the start of the evening with Lemoncello, particularly the song about the sunflower and personal growth, constrained. And the seasonal turn of ‘Samhradh Samhradh’ a traditional song favoured by The Gloaming and The Chieftains. The greeting of summer, with a pinch of melancholy.

    Laura Quirke, Joshua Burnside by Stuart Bailie

  8. And then Laura joins Joshua on ‘Far Away the Hills are Green’ and the moment when indigenous beauty becomes a tourist stopover for Californians with an inner vacancy: “to see our ancient things / magic stones, that kinda thing”.
  9. Never a bad time for Holllllogram. Always a jolt to hear “I threw out the shell I stole from your windowsill.”
  10. Maybe not the ideal night for balloons or confetti cannons but Joshua does have ‘Northern Winds’ as an encore. A million tiny moths flutter, and then fall. Sigh.

Stuart Bailie


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