Country came to the city last weekend when Ireland’s top country star Derek Ryan made his debut in Belfast with two sell out shows at the Europa Hotel.
Derek proved why he recently won the Entertainer of the Year award and Album of the Year, for his number one album The Simple Things, with a super show last Friday on the first of his two Belfast dates.
There were sing alongs, dancing in the aisles, stage invasions and even a marriage proposal, providing a wealth of entertainment for the packed out crowd, with people having travelled from as far away as Donegal for the show.
Featuring old favourites, country classics and Derek’s own original tracks, there was something for everyone, from beautiful ballads to songs that had people jiving in the aisles.
Opening the night with Raggle-Taggle Gypsy, Derek set the tone for a night of great music and fun.
With a setlist including I Fought The Law, It’s A Heartache, Will Ye Go, Lassie, Go?, Hold On To Your Hat, It’s Friday and an Irish Medley including Rattlin’ Bog, Rare Ould Mountain Dew, Courtin in the Kitchen and Whiskey in the Jar, Belfast was in the mood to party.
Taking time out to give shout-outs to fans and members of the audience, Derek wished plenty of ‘Happy Birthday’s’, as well as giving a shout-out to staff from the Bannville House Hotel, who’d travelled from Banbridge for the show, with the country star commenting on how well he’s always looked after when he visits Banbridge.
Seeming a little surprised himself by one particular message, he soon was off the stage to find the person who had made the request, saying a special question needed to be asked.
With the entire audience on their feet in anticipation, Derek found Jason McKee, who proposed to Carol Hyman, who thankfully said yes!
Returning to the stage, Derek spoke of the song which kickstarted his country career, God’s Plan, a track, whilst taking just 20 minutes to write, has become a fan favourite, and has been covered by the likes of Daniel O’Donnell.
Dedicating the beautiful ballad to the newly engaged couple, as well as a couple who he performed the song for at their wedding almost four years ago, Derek had the crowd singing along with every word.
Taking time to slow things down, he performed a series of acoustic numbers, including Old Flames Can’t Hold A Candle To You, Cry, a superb version of One Day At A Time, Sweet Jesus, and Goodnight Irene, before finishing the set with the beautiful Life Is A River, Derek’s own song, which has become his signature song.
When Derek announced the first person to be called Mary would get a kiss as he performed Kiss Me Mary, he created mayhem, as ladies suddenly changed their name, with the country star joking he needed to check passports to be sure.
A lot of kisses were given to the audience’s ‘Mary’s’, however, and everyone was left happy, including one overly enthusiastic fan who later invaded the Europa stage.
With a new album in the works, Derek took time to perform a new number, Wrong Side of Sober, a catchy tune that is certain to be another hit for the Carlow man.
Finishing up the night with I Saw The Light, an American Rock Medley, which included American Pie, Hurts So Good and Don’t Stop Believin’, and Pick A Bale of Cotton, the audience were on their feet dancing in the aisles.
Finishing up the night with a rousing version of Avicii’s Wake Me Up, Derek ended the night on a high.
As always he took time to speak to fans after the show, taking photos together and signing autographs, Derek is always approachable and takes time for those who follow him, proving why he is just so popular.
The two dates at the Europa Hotel may have been Derek’s first in the city, but judging by the reaction of the crowd, they certainly won’t be his last.