Last night at a packed Glasgow Royal Concert Hall we were witness to a magnificent musical and visual feast. King Creosote’s 9 piece band and 8 singers pulled off a stunning accompaniment to Director Virginia Heath’s lovingly collated images of a bygone Scottish era. It’s fair to say that both the music and the film could almost stand alone as fully formed pieces, but in combination, in a live setting, the experience was simply overwhelming.
Kenny Anderson’s keening tenor was the perfect foil for the nostalgic and evocative images. Opening number Something To Believe In set the tone for the whole performance as images of; docks, North Gardner Street in Partick, the Highlands and Islands, foggy cobbled roads and dockland flashed by to a beautifully realised number played by the whole band.
The film was split into sections giving us Scotland at work, war and play. Over the course of the film we were taken to the smoky streets and factories of the city to the beauty of the Scottish countryside and beyond to the bleak Island Scottish fisheries. In Miserable Strangers we even got as far as New York with Scots emigrating abroad.
Industry contrasted pouring molten metal in a steel work with the bottling of whisky. Bluebell Cockleshell gave us girls skipping through the streets to traditional songs. The music throughout matched the mood of the film perfectly and the band rose to the occasion.
Support act Tiny Ruins are basically a vehicle for singer-songwriter Hollie Fullbrook and were the ideal addition to the evening with dreamy melodies and Fullbrooks pure vocal.
All in all there was too much to digest or describe in a simple review. Suffice to say that the evening perfectly represented the aims of Celtic Connections and that King Creosote and Virginia Heath have much to be proud of.
Last night, at the ABC in Glasgow, I found myself at 38 years old either the second or third youngest in a crowd of about 300 people. All around me were men of distinction & women ‘of a certain age’ (who did actually look cute when the lights dropped), who would have been teenage acolytes of the two rocky-bluesy bands bands that were about to take the stage.
First up was Andy Fairweather, accompanied by the Lowriders, of whom Andy said, ‘In 51 years ive never had a better band.’ The music was tight & full of lovely juxtapositions betwen the instruments sax, drums, bass & Andy’s several guitars – & its no wonder that he’s worked with such leading luminaries as Eric Clapton, George Harrison, Bob Dylan & Jimi Hendrix.
When singing, I noticed that his lips hardly moved, & I was informed by an audience member that it was a trademark of his, that cocky little mod-smirk that made people love or hate him in equal measure. Having only 50 minutes for the entire set, there was no banter between songs, only frantic guitar-swapping & slightly quicker versions.
The songs were diverse, from Reggae to Beatles b-sides (I’ll Get You), which were lapped up by an increasingly ‘digging-it’ audience, who cheered loudly when they heard the first notes of his great classic, ‘Wide Eyed & Legless.’I especially enjoyued ‘If Paradise is half as nice,’ originally perform’d by Fairweather’s first band, Amen Corner.
The headline act was the trio BAND of FRIENDS, a tribute to the Irish guitar-god, Rory Gallagher, who died in 1995. Two of the band, bass-player Gerry McAvoy & drummer Ted McKenna, had played with Rory in the past, with – jamming for 20 years with the guy. The singer was the Dutch looklike, playalike & singlike Marcel Scherpenzeel, who did a tremendous job, but I dont the band were ready for a bunch of grumpy, over-loyal Weegies.
To some, Ballyshannon’s Rory Gallacher was & still is a hero – selling 30 million records without ever appearing on top of the pops. A member of the audience told me how he’d seen Rory’s first band, Taste, in Inverness in ’68 & seen him 15 more times.
But Scherpenzeel was no Rory, a little too static on stage; you could really at times cut the tension with a knife, shouts of ‘turn it up’coming from a crowd not quite prepared to see their hero being replaced by an imposter – & at one point a plastic empty glass whizzed Scherpenzeel’s head. Still – the timless genius of the music won out in the end, & by the final songs the crowd had finally de-shocked & warmed to the band, urged on by the ever-manic McAvoy.
Youth, Charisma & genuine Talent were all present in abundance last night at the Oran Mor, for the showcase of the ‘Middle of Nowhere Records’ family. Sat together in a semi-circle, bantering freely & accompanying each other’s self-penned orphic hymns were Glasgow’s marvellous velvet-jacketed Roddy Hart, Stornaway’s soft-voiced Colin Macleod & elfin-minded Miss Irenie Rose, Mull’s shy but beautiful Sorren Maclean & of course Aviemore’s Rachel Sermanni, about whose divine vocals & remarkable fretswomanship the Record label was initially woven.
Rob Hicks, the boss of ‘Middle of Nowhere’ has an excrutiatingly annoying eye for talent – his charges are really that good. So happy with them I believe he is, that when he discovered that his one-off vinyl edition to accompany the show was still in transit from Germany (the weather apparently), he was still bloody grinning, so sure was he of his lovely team. He took orders on teh LP, by the way, & offered to pay postage for free!
The show was sold-out, packed to the rafters & really enjoying the hootenanny laid up on such a harmonious platter. It felt a bit like being sat in the Gaslight Cafe, Greenwich Village, 1959, with the young Bob & Dylan shaking the midwest dust from his feet – then in walks Joan Baez & the rest is history. For me, it seems like the natural genius of the folk music of the Highlands & Islands could well be instrumental in some kind of national revival. These guys are young, with the world at their feet, with many a beautiful song yet to be written, yet to be plucked from the glens & the streams, yet to be sung on the desolate hills.
I think the best way to finish this review is to simply let the kids do the talking for themselves, so here are a few you-tube clips, & a link to their record label, where I am sure you will soon be purchasing an album or three.
January is, traditionally, a healthy month spent recuperating from festive frolics and exertion. Fortunately, Glasgow fails to comprehend the term quiet night in, and an array of parties to choose from continues, from the formidable King Tut’s New Year’s Revolution to the endearing and irreplaceable Celtic Connections festival. With snow blanketing the suburbs, it was down to Glasgow Royal Concert Hall to thaw the fingers and draw the crowds in. The Danny Kyle stage, named after the legendary Scottish folk singer, is held within the Exhibition Hall and has been the platform where a number of now-established names presented their talents. This free-entry stage welcomed submissions from rising musical acts to exhibit their songs in an effort to reach a ticketed showcase concert on 1st February 2015.
Now five nights in, and with Celtic Music Radio streaming the event, tonight’s acts included one of the Vale of Leven’s most-loved bands, Have Mercy Las Vegas. Described by Jim Gellatly as “an ideal festival band with stacks of energy”, the Vegas have been building up a steady following across the country over the last couple of years with their obstreperous, rollicking sounds blended with congenial polyphonic harmonies. With debut album ‘That’s Life’ neatly tucked into the rear-end of 2014, the band were keen to propel their West Dunbartonshire-flavour of roots and blues and rally the frozen audience into stamping grit off their boots; raise one mitten to the roof.
With no fewer than six band members, most stages are usually squeezed to fit the full Vegas crowd in. It was apparent from the start that bassist Marc McLean would be forced to play much of the set with his back to the crowd in an effort to avoid feedback. This ploy worked as the band eased themselves into EP release and fans’ favourite “Tear To My Eye”. The glorious echo of the line hanging out with an angel quickly had the seated crowd yearning for more. This was followed by a frenetic, feverish “Barn Stomp”, led by Andrew Napier’s agitated fiddle and Stephen Scott’s equally frenzied banjo-playing. It was a smart move by Vegas to showcase different strings to their bow, pardon the pun, slowing things down with lead singers Crispin McAlpine and Eilidh Trotter sharing harmonies on the lesser-played “Plastic Promises”, before rounding off their 4-song set with the wonderful “Bonnie and Clyde” from their debut album.
Second to the stage was student Tom Vevers. This was a far more intimate performance which allowed Vevers to demonstrate a sweet display of acoustic guitar and vocal dynamics. Opener “Wait And See” had shades of Tom McRae, captivating the 250 capacity-filled audience. A slower-paced love ballad “Science Class” followed after Vevers’ witty repertoire between songs, begging the subject of the piece Where do you think the light goes when it leaves your eyes?, and one final song “Low” wrapped up a short, but effective set.
Following Vevers was the treat that was Granny Green. This trio consist of a trumpet, an accordion, and a much-cherish tuba. Stamping their own mark on an established opener, it was left to tuba player Rachel Brown to provide a quite breathtaking opener for second number, “Fnook” (Ladies, correct me if this is not the right spelling but I do remember that it is a Norwegian word for ‘something small’). A fascinating display of musicianship which managed to make the tuba sound like a didgeridoo and a drumkit in places, and a true delight to see and hear live. The Granny Green girls rounded off their set with a third song, mournful to start with but gradually twisting, turning, bordering on film noir as they reached the climax. This was the first band since Grousebeater Soundsystem at Loopallu Festival in 2009 that has made me smile ear to ear at sounds that belongs to no genre and are entirely original.
Shetland lass Chloe Robertson filled the fourth spot with an acoustic set similar to the afore-mentioned Vevers – each song improving on the one before it. Robertson’s warm manner shone through songs “The Symptoms And The Signs” and “Stitches” – the latter was described as a gentle let-down. Feasibly the strongest song that emerged was the clever “Insomnia”. Hardly breaking new ground on subject matter, but Robertson’s ability to lend her own personal experience in the songs draws listeners in like moths to a flame. The fifth and final number “Fish Out Of Water” was penned when Robertson was a mere 15 years old, which makes it all the more remarkable that this was a delightful way to finish her turn on the Danny Kyle stage.
The final act of the evening was the recently-formed Talisk. This trio had already performed at the Royal Albert Hall and were a clear favourite among large sections of the audience. The balance between concertina, fiddle and guitar quickly engaged the audience into hand-clapping and whooping along with each number. Talisk’s interpretation of traditional music wasn’t to my own tastes, but a version of “Baby Broons” was a welcome addition within their set, and Mohsen Amini’s concertina on final song “Kettles” was highly moving, suggesting that this band deserved their place every bit as much as their peers this evening.
It was then left to host Liz Clark to thank all who had contributed to a wonderful evening and wait to hear in approximately one week’s time which successful act will proceed to the illustrious ticketed event.
From half way down Carlton Road you could hear the sound of Studio 24″s musical masterpiece that they had put on for the end of 2014 !!!! On entering Studio 24 the music took hold of you like a warm embrace from a close friend. THE WEE DUB was in full swing, blasting out the tunes that make them unique… The music, the dance and the vibe was electric. Without further thought I plunged myself into the crowd, onto the dance floor and allowed the music to take me on a magical musical journey through the first few hours of 2015.
With Mungo’s Hi Fi, Prince Batty and Dread Squad, we were all in for the long haul. A Five Hour mash-up of friends, dancing, drinking and loving was only what most people had in mind. With a great vibe and friends you couldn’t have asked for a better way to see in a New Year and ending the last one with a Bang !!!! Well done to all the staff at Studio 24 and to the Wee Dub crew for putting on a great show.