The hotly-tipped band's first show of the year is a triumph...

DUBLIN four-piece HAL, one of NME’s Hot Band’s for 2004, opened the year with a show in BELFAST last night (January 21).

The band played to a packed house of several hundred in Auntie Annies’, the first date on a brief Irish tour ahead of the release of their much vaunted debut single ‘Worry About The Wind’, due for the release at the end of March.

The band looked relaxed despite the expectation that has been growing round them since an A&R bidding war for their signatures erupted last summer. The Strokes’ label Rough Trade eventually won the battle.

They worked through a 50-minute set with tracks including ‘Keep Love As Your Golden Rule’, ‘Play The Hits’ and the forthcoming single.

Due to similarity in American West Coast late 60s/early 70s influences, there have been parallels drawn between Hal and The Thrills. At several points last night, the audience called out for ‘One Horse Town’ and other The Thrills numbers.

Hal frontman Dave Allen, until very recently an architect, took the hectoring with good grace and smiled.

Hal continue their tour tonight at the Spirit Store in Dundalk.

They play an NME Awards show with The Thrills, 22-20s and Razorlight on February 5 at London’s Brixton Academy.

For ticket availability, [url=]click here or call the NME Ticketline on 0870 1 663 663.