Words & Photos: David McEneaney
Admittedly, being a relative newcomer to the whole CMAT craze, I found myself walking into the photo pit in the Limelight, Belfast completely unaware of what was about to happen before my very lens.
I did notice a slew of people all dressed in various stages of cowboy attire, from the Woody from Toy Story inspired cow print hats/chaps to the more…’risqué’ variety, but for some reason I didn’t think too much about it.
While standing there checking my camera settings and taking a couple of test shots, I heard the opening bars of Celine Dion’s ‘It’s All Coming Back to Me Now’ come through the PA system. This was almost immediately drowned out by a synchronous roar of what sounded like everyone in the entire city. As the song continued the lighting engineer was putting on a bit of a light show, cycling through a few programmes that highlighted the giant cacti dotted throughout the stage and every so often turning the house lights on to illuminate what I then realised to be a completely packed venue. Hundreds of people floating beneath a sea of cowboy hats singing and screaming along to Celine as if she herself were on stage singing.
I also noticed there was an abundance of red cowboy hats with the Spar logo on them, and for a moment I thought that I was either missing an in-joke, or a nearby in-store special offer.
This was all forgotten immediately when a lift (yes, a lift) opened to the right of the stage and out walked the band, one at a time, to deafening screams that seemed to get louder when each member appeared. When CMAT herself appeared and bounded onto the screen the entire venue erupted and the stage lit up and suddenly became some kind of Wild West cartoon fever dream.
The band immediately started with the song ’Nashville’ and I was amazed at both CMAT’s stage presence but also with the entire crowd, from the under 18’s to their accompanying adults and everyone in-between, singing along to every word and screaming with every gesture CMAT made to all of them, truly putting the ‘fanatics’ back into ‘fans’. She stormed across the stage throughout, continuing into ‘Lonely’ and then the elongated bridge version of ‘IDRC4U’, complete with blackened stage and spotlight on a collapsed CMAT in the middle of the stage, waiting for the crowd to scream her back onto her feet and get those cowboy boots moving again.
It was then that I realised this was an entirely different universe that I had no idea existed. Like visiting ‘Planet Parton’, but on acid.
The theatrics were relentless, with the band jumping from song to song effortlessly and the crowd loving every single moment of it.
They only stopped in the middle of the set to invite Danni Walsh on stage for a…cocktail drinking race? (I think that’s what it was, I could barely make out what was happening through the screams and chaos at that point) and then a song which was also being recorded on her phone for I guess her TikTok channel. Go check there for a first person view of the stage. I’d imagine it will give you much more of a feel for what was happening than I ever could.
It seemed like a crossover that was exactly what the crowd wanted, and by this stage I was just going along with it all, enthralled at the fact that I still had no idea what was happening or what was going to happen next, but that also didn’t seem to matter anymore because everyone seemed to be having fun. True fans, truly happy.
I spent a lot of the drive back home wondering ‘did that just happen?’, but according to my photos at least, yes…yes it did.
I Don’t Really Care For You
I’d Want U
2 Wrecked 2 Care
Another Day (kfc)
No More Virgos
Every Bottle (Is My Boyfriend)
I Want To Be A Cowboy, Bady!