The Swing Gals, Gig Review, The Perch, Belfast, Friday, September 20, 2019, Culture Night
Photography courtesy of Garth Philpott
Cover picture courtesy of Marie Hill
The Perch Bar is new to me, a lively little number five stories up with half of it open to the elements. There’s a fair wee crowd as The Swing Gals tune up and run microphone wires here and there and make adjustment to the PA.
8 O’clock on the button things kick off. Probably the first gig I’ve been to where a sound check gets a round of applause. 19 tunes, all classics and one and a half hours of swinging fun begins.
‘We might not be rocking but wee will be swinging’ quips one and never a truer word has been spoken. Tambourines and maracas are handed out and at the end of the opener, Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, myself and the rest of The Perch know we’re in for a good night. Kathy McKeagney tinkles away on the ivories; depending on the song she moves from big tune bounce to the second song, Ain’t Misbehang’s more mournful, soulful sound.
Belly-button-gazing simply isn’t on the agenda with this talented quartet. Cheek To Cheek and I Got The Rythym gets a happy crowd moving and the girls aren’t backward in coming forward, ‘Grab that lovely partner and give her a wee swing’ one of the three standing shout out and the dancefloor is grooving from then on in.
While Claire Galway joins in on the violin, Marion Jordan and Orla McKeagney grab those willing and dance along as Kathy on keys and Claire play an extended instrumental. The introduction of the violin adds an Irish feel to these big band tunes and though only used sparingly but when it’s introduced falls neatly in with the keys.
Van Morrison’s Moonlight is an obvious crowd pleaser with the band in full bloom; at times there’s one voice, at others three part harmonies and for parts of some numbers all four sing along. Song 11 is a Dusty Springfield medley moving from a tune I’m not familiar with to Son Of A Preacher Man and then effortlessly to A Song For You.
As the four take a few minutes break a fella – maybe a friend of the band? – hops onto the piano and knocks out a rendition of Elton John’s Rocket Man, whether this was planned, I simply don’t know but it sits in perfectly with the relaxed vibe of the evening.
A bouncing cover of BB King’s Fever and the audience is firmly back in the grip of The Swing Gals palms for the rest of the evening. As the drinks fall back more and more find their dancing feet and an ABBA medley has the whole The Perch shaking their stuff. Super Trooper moves to Mama Mia and then onto Dancing Queen. A Supremes medley follows and as it ends the room echoes to cries of ‘One more tune, one more tune’. The gals happily take us up on our demand and Swing Swing is followed Mambo Italian.
Alas all good things come to an end. A big and well deserved round of applause lasts for a couple of minutes and one of the gals knowingly reminds us that ‘there’s plenty more music out there.
The Perch returns to its speak-easy kind of feel. I really can’t recommend this band highly enough. If you like old classics professionally delivered and with plenty of crowd participation The Perch and The Swing Gals should be high on your list.