Concert Hall, Glasgow
A great start to the night was had in the form of Irish singer Grainne Holland who kickstarted 2016’s Burns night, Alba: Songs of Scotland, at The Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow. First offering was a song about, ‘the crack..the girls and the drink.’ The moment Grainne burst into song I could see why Celtic Connection’s Artistic Director (and founding member of Celtic supergroup Capercaillie) Donald Shaw invited Holland and her band to our shores. A voice like hers deserves to be heard : it is little wonder she has won rapturous plaudits for her deep vocal range and interesting arrangements. Grainne brings a modern urban angle to traditional Gaelic music which has been described as Gaelic jazz. A perfect pairing then to warm up the audience for the larger than life presence of Eddi Reader. With ballads that warn of marrying a carpenter or a tailor because future nights will be spent cutting wood or cloth and to settle for the piper instead because,‘… you can listen to my wonderful music till the cows come home,’ we are transported back in time to really appreciate that there was meaning and wisdom imparted on the listeners beyond the beauty of the tune itself.
So, we were well warmed by the time The Scottish National Jazz Orchestra with Eddi Reader arrived to celebrate Rabbie Burns’ 257th birthday. Eddi played a beautifully reflective rendition of late Glaswegian writer Edwin Morgan and Tommy Smith’s Glen of Tranquility. Her performance with the SNJO focused on Burns’ deep lyrical love in famous pieces such as Ae Fond Kiss and John Anderson My Jo, before singing Charlie is My Darlin and amusingly reminding the older members of the audience that this tune was used to advertise beer, ‘…McEwan’s is the best beer, you’ll remember it.’
Never a dull moment with the captivating Reader who danced her way through the set-raising her skirt at times to dance like your granny – then waltzing and yes air guitaring at one point while ad-libbing her sublime tonal range in time to the saxophones. Glasgow Barrowlands was poignant due to the fact that Eddi heard this song sung, ‘ by a guy fae the pub wi nae teeth.’ in her house when her dad brought back his drinking buddies on Thursday nights which, ‘ .. always turned into a party.’
The finale was another love song, not penned by Burns, but by Reader’s husband The Wild Mountainside which like all Ayrshire lads , ‘can write a poem but canny put a washine machine on.’ You can’t have it all Eddi, but the audience of this emotive night certainly felt they did!
Reviewer: Clare Crines