Sunday 25th Jan
It’s a long walk when it’s raining from the Royal Concert Hall to the Old Fruit market, but somehow on Glasgow January nights that doesn’t seem to matter. Celtic Connections it seems is enough to warm any heart, mine in particular when you have a ticket for one of the hottest gigs at the festival. On Sunday night I was lucky enough to be in possession of such a ticket. The concert concerned was The Chair, an event which for those who have not seen the band can only be described as stunningly brilliant madness.
The support band for the evening was Fara who like The Chair a highly talented Orcadian multi-taskers. The only difference being that The Chair are a group of lads whereas Fara are group of lassies two of whose members I know well Louise Bichan, and Scotland’s very own princess of song not to mention Sunday’s Birthday Girl Jeana Leslie. As the crowd gathered it was a good thing this event was standing room only as the last thing anyone ever needs at a Chair gig is a chair. Believe me the band may never have played the Nolan’s 1970’s classic I’m in the mood for dancing but their followers myself included always are and it’s a great way to shed those Christmas pounds.
Fara being the support band were first to take to the stage and I have to say I was very impressed not only by their musicianship which I always knew would be of the highest standard, or with the beautiful singing voice of Jeana Leslie, but with the seamless way they transitioned between the slower more melodic tunes and the rip roaring faster ones which got everyone’s toes tapping. This is the mark of a quality Celtic act and Fara are a top quality band who know the tradition well. In a set which was all too short I really enjoyed The Fisher Three, The Loon and his Quine, and of course my Heart is in the Highlands. Believe me the band were quite simply superb and got the audience nicely warmed up just in time for the main event of the evening… it was now time for the madness of the Chair.
As the band took the stage the air was electric with anticipation and they got us all up dancing with a set of reels which set the tone for the night. The first of the many times I saw the band was in the heats of the Danny Kyle Open Stage and sometimes you know when you’ve seen winners. That night was one of those moments and of course I was right, indeed they had us dancing in the isles on the finals night when they as I thought they would be named among the winners. Having seen them many times since I knew what to expect…. tonight the real winners were those who didn’t.
This was a night for fast-paced jigs and reels and just when your weren’t expecting it the band would throw a song or a haunting melodic air into the mix. This was a night for playing familiar tunes and fresh new material. Most of all however it was night of dancing for all generations and the great thing was that no one was remotely embarrassed. After all, this is a Chair night and it just kinda happens. I was a bit surprised that they only played three songs in their set and I particularly liked the one about the only landlocked parish in Orkney the title of which escapes me but my favourite part of the night was the brilliant festival reel which with so many key changes in it shows the importance of getting a band to play instruments in harmony and when this is done at it’s best as is the case with The Chair it is a joy to listen to.
As the night neared its climax so to the madness, and I had promised myself that I wasn’t going to get involved in any conga. However as is usually the case on nights like this, I got caught up in the insanity of the moment and when the conga came calling I couldn’t refuse and ended up doing exactly what I said I wouldn’t. At the end of what was an excellent, exhilarating, and exhausting evening, I also chatted to a few audience members to see where they had travelled from. Locations included the wonderful and exotic Lanarkshire industrial towns of Motherwell, and Coatbridge, and more far flung parts of Scotland such as Aberdeenshire, and Moray, not forgetting the many Orcadians here to support their local bands. There were also those who had travelled that wee bit further to support the band. This included one woman who had come up from the Home Counties to see the band. Now that’s what I call loyalty, but I know she thoroughly enjoyed her evening. Well it’s a well known fact that from Orkney to Oxford everyone loves musical Chairs especially when there’s standing room only.
Reviewer : Gayle Smith