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Limp Bizkit w/ Tom Morello and Nova Twins at Belsonic 2024

“Is it 1999 yet?”

With hi-vis jacket and a heroic glint in his eye, Fred Durst gazes out into an ocean of red hats and wobbly day-drinkers in Belfast’s Ormeau Park.

A mere plastic glass throw of Tennent’s from the Woodstock Road—the closest any of us will get to the cursed promised land in question—Limp Bizkit are midway through ‘Hot Dog.’ It’s there, floating in song three of a fourteen-song set, where you’ll find me plundering my pea-sized brain for an answer to the question posed by our messianic nu-metal binman.

As I try to catch a glimpse of him and the rest of Limp Bizkit through a Lost Mary pall, beginning to wonder if I’m the pyrotechnician at the tail-end of a fucking Rammstein farewell concert, a young man from Ballymena taps me on the shoulder.

“Here mate, at what point does cultural nostalgia buckle into itself to become an elliptical cosmic yearning without end?” he starts. “Like, outside of the onward death march of capitalism, is there an endgame to the knee-jerk Netflixification of the recent past? What will become of Gen X’s own brand Nietzschean Eternal Return? And will the afterparty be at the Limelight?”

It was then, just as “If only we could flyyyyyy” floated over the PA, that I politely told Kyle to shut the fuck up.

‘Mon now, Mark Fisher Price. Put down the Lacan and walk away slowly. Forget about the likely inherited hallucination of simpler times that were anything but for one second: ‘My Generation’ has just started. No, not that one—the Who cover is coming later.

1999, 2024 – does it really matter? Me and seemingly half of Northern Ireland are thinking as one smooth brain and there’s no Deleuze quote you can wield from Wikipedia to make any of us listen.

But first, to the support. Grandstanding bills of Belsonic’s rep are cause for openers who can compete. It’s something Nova Twins summon with a Scrooge-tight tenacity all their own. On fuzzed-out highlights like ‘Antagonist’ and ‘Choose Your Fighter,’ the London duo’s trouncing alternative rock packs in the requisite hereditary information of nu-metal to set the energy of the evening. From start and indeed to finish, they’re fierce to the point of fist-clenched. Honestly, more grooves than the ScrewFix on Ravenhill, just over those oak trees there. Watch and see: they’ll be headlining Belsonic before too long.

Show me a musician more consistently right-on than Tom Morello and I’ll remind you how fucking useless Nick Cave and Radiohead have been on the subject of the ongoing genocide in Gaza. “It’s been 30 years since I’ve been in your beautiful city,” says the Rage Against the Machine guitarist and certified Good Lad, before mentioning how he countered jet lag with a West Belfast pub crawl the night before. Something something taking the Powers back.

As well as a career-spanning endorsement of the drop-D tuning, cresting on a very satisfying Rage medley, three cheers for Chris Cornell cue a touching rendition of Audioslave ballad ‘Like a Stone.’ “Ok, maybe one more song,” says Morello, before playing two more songs. “Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me!” I shout along, knowing full well that I will, almost always, but with some exceptions whenever it doesn’t engender too much pain, do what they tell me.

Shredding his signature “Arm the Homeless” guitar, Hendrix-like with his teeth, Morello reveals a sharpied demand: CEASEFIRE. While there’s a small part of me hoping he hastily shouts “Ooh, ahh, [fill in the gaps]” causing a little bit of mortification among the ranks, you take what you’re given in this life, i.e., a very good set from a very good musician who we hope to see back teeth-shredding and pinting at the Felons much sooner than 2054.

With mobile networks biting the dust for the duration of the evening (1999, baby!) I entertain myself by taking a second to remember that the suspension of disbelief rests squarely on the understanding that what you’re experiencing is not, in fact, real. “But this is real. This is a thing,” I tell myself, as Limp Bizkit swagger out to ‘Sweet Home Alabama.’ Right off the bat, Fred Durst has a timely memo for the day-drinkers among us. “This is not Alabama. My friends, my family in Ireland. Limp Bizkit are in the house, baby.”

It’s within the confines of this particular place of residence that you’ll hear one of the greatest songs of all time: ‘Break Stuff.’ It was true then and it’s true now: if you don’t have the urge to at least shatter some items, big or small, during this, alt-rock’s sub-three-minute angst spiritual par excellence, you might be broke yourself. “If you’re here to party like it’s 1999, then party like it’s 1999,” says Durst during its breakdown. Again with the Prince song. Will they cover it? Maybe. But first to watch this young gentleman in a knock-off Ride the Lightning shirt throw his Adidas Samba across Ormeau Park.

“How many of you have to work tomorrow?” Tired cheers drown out pockets of slightly shamed silence. “Fuck that!” More cheers, less shamed silence. “Send me a DM on Instagram and I’ll get you out of it.” Careful what you wish for, Fred. You’ll be getting video calls from Deirdre at Concentrix before you’re able to finish spelling CEX.

Anyway, it probably has no right to but ‘Rollin’’ fairly holds up. As throughout, DJ Lethal lives up to his name (presumably acquired during a lock-in in Coalisland in the mid-1990s). Dude’s in House of Pain as well; hope he got some good PRS for blasting ‘Jump Around’ midway through the set.

It all trickles back to a relatively important point. You can come at Limp Bizkit’s massive renaissance from any angle, or none whatsoever, but you can’t say that they can’t play. Tonight, the forever physically and musically menacing Wes Borland is a one-man unit of searing harmonics and lead acrobatics (see: the extended intro to ‘My Way’), while bassist Sam Rivers and drummer John Otto are especially wizardly on highlight ‘Nookie.’

Naturally, it’s transporting stuff but there can be no doubt where we are. With Borland donning what appears to be a pimped-out Loyalist sash, Durst mutters something about Free Derry Corner early on before wisely bailing. Then there’s “Olé, Olé, Olé,’ a chant more Irish than a Chicken Fillet Roll bearing an uncanny resemblance to Marty Whelan. Olé, Olé, Olé. Close your eyes and there you are, back at Oxegen 2006, surrounded by lads from Skerries with world-beating lobster tans offering you salvia. And you take it. You take it on a banjaxed blow-up chair as ‘Walk the Line,’ featuring Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon, plays from a massive screen across the Blue campsite.

They may obviously be in no rush to get anywhere, delivering a separate masterclass in how to wield a little bit of comfortable silence in between songs, but it all comes back to routing peaks (no, not ‘Behind Blue Eyes’ but it was nice).

It takes something special to be a Louth man called Ryan, dressed as a human-sized hotdog in public on a Wednesday night. But the reward, if you’re lucky, is to get pulled up on stage to duet with your hero on a song called ‘Full Nelson.’ “I’ve never met an Irish hotdog before,” reveals Durst, as Ryan the hotdog clambers on stage with remarkable grace and poise.

Elsewhere, in between more Olés, ‘Boiler’ and ‘Faith’ are wrecking matches, Fred and Wes slow-dance to ‘Careless Whisper,’ and the band even play their song ‘Take a Look Around’ from that blockbuster sequel featuring Tom Cruise. Love or hate the movie, it’s a mission impossible to hate the song. 

And while it probably either takes a really clever or really dumb band to end on the song they opened with, rest assured none of those bands—bar Limp Bizkit—have written a song called ‘Break Stuff.’ Durst once again decrees that the bullshit is split evenly between men and women alike, dreadful Caledonian lager goes flying and sciatica is, you can be absolutely guaranteed, activated in approximately 200 38-40 year-olds in attendance. And what of it?

“I’m so happy that people are happy and safe tonight because the world is fucked up,” says Durst, brimming with a humility that feels increasingly warm and genuine throughout. “It’s been an honour. It’s been an Irish honour.”

As I stand there, imagining a shite film called An Irish Honour, my mind drifts to bumping into our messianic nu-metal binman in Belfast city centre earlier in the day. I mentioned in passing that I was going to review the show, to which he replied: “I kind of hope it’s a bad review. We prefer negative reviews.”

Well, everything crossed someone comes through for you at Download this weekend. Your offhand implication that the spirit of a quarter-of-a-century ago is maybe something to strive for is no bad thing. In fact, it’s legit. I’d wager it’s even good. But when things are this fun in the here and now, who really wants to go back to 1999?Brian Coney

Photos by Seán McMahon

is the editor of The Thin Air. Talk to him about Philip Glass and/or follow him on Twitter @brianconey.