Ryan McMullan is a local hero.
Three things confirm that this evening. That he can almost sell out Custom House Square before he has released an album; that that sizeable crowd sang almost every word of 60% of his set; and that his merchandise t-shirt for the evening in a Team McMullan GAA county shirt style sold out before he got a chance to plug it from the stage.
Sounds like it was a celebration for our boy. It was of sorts but running through McMullan’s fragile stage banter is that the long awaited album that was to be released the day before has been put back until spring while McMullan deals with some mental health issues.
Fair play for McMullan to have the courage to admit to his ailing mental health and to get help. To cancel his debut album release and the World Tour to follow that, after waiting all the way through Covid for it to happen, has to have been a massive decision. We support you Ryan. Get well soon.
In the meantime we your fans will come and sing our hearts out to remind you how much we love you and what you mean to us. There was a lot of caring energy making its way towards the stage all night long. We hope it helps.
All in all the gig did feel like a celebration. That an artist who has just postponed the release of debut album has a crowd singing so many songs is a phenomenon in itself. He does like a singalong chorus young McMullan and if there is a wee critique it is that some of the choruses are cut from very similar cloth. BUT it makes for an amazing atmosphere, almost like he has shrunk Custom House Square to a wee bar in Portaferry and gathered in a few (thousand) mates.
Highlights are the recent single Static and the old favourite Oh Suzannah with Foy Vance as a comedic guest. Best of all is the old song that has made the album Bowie On The Radio and very best of all is Belfast City.
This song sung by thousands on a Saturday night in the middle of Belfast. I held my wife and a daughter and we sung our lungs out with pride and emotion and togetherness. Belfast concerts don’t get much better.
I left asking the question I have surmised for months. Can Ryan McMullan take the next step up. Can he transfer this parochial wonder onto a world stage? I guess the answer has been postponed for a little while to quote the boy? If it doesn’t work out I hope he will find healing and lead us in those words that I even used to open my prayers for the city the morning after
I'm going home to the people I love
Where I was born and raised
Where the streets and the history remain
But oh how the times have changed
I know it rains, but it's always pretty
Back to the friends that I can't take with me
We'll have a night out in Belfast City alright
We will Ryan! And we did! Thank you!