Paisley Spree festival, Spiegeltent
18th October 2017
It was a lovely cool evening in Paisley when I joined the crowd gathering in County Square around a charming edifice constructed from wood and canvas as one of the venues for the Spree for All Festival. This was the “Speigeltent” (Dutch for “mirror tent”). The façade, designed to look old, was decorated with lavish paintings and crevice work. It was here that we eagerly anticipated spending the evening with the world famous Scottish musician Dougie Maclean, and his special guests De Temps Antan, a trio – Éric Beaudry, André Brunet and Pierre-Luc Dupuis – all the way from Quebec, who were delighted to be taking time out from their own tour to appear with Dougie in Paisley for the first time.
Inside, the Speigeltent was even more lavish than the exterior; under the dome-like roof, it was a spectacular round space decorated with mirrors, lights and colours; wood carvings and luscious cloth drapes of velvet and brocade. The atmosphere was electric as De Temps Antan, playing fiddle, guitar, foot box and various other instruments with great gusto, got the evening off to a lively start with a high energy performance of traditional Quebec music – with their own contemporary spin – that had the whole audience thigh slapping, hand clapping and some even dancing all around the room. At some points it felt as if the wild shindig would spin away into the night.
Then Dougie walked on stage, acoustic guitar over his shoulder and commenting with comic understatement that this was a funny kind of tent. As he plucks away, and talks to the audience in his distinctive style, just listening to him is very calming in itself. His set list included songs from his new album ‘Inside the Thunder’, delivered as always in a most simple and personal way. In charming story telling mode he informed us that each song he writes is a genuine thing that happened to him or occurred to him. This gives his songs more potency, freedom and mystery as you listen. Even the internationally acclaimed ‘Caledonia’ was a genuine tale of being far from home and feeling homesick. You feel he is genuine and sincere.
Dougie’s lyrics always include a great spirit, “holding forever on the long test of time” and though he jokes and smiles to his audience, his voice grabs you as sounding infinitely sad in character, thus making the man himself all the more beautiful. About two songs in he invited us to join him in song, tutoring us as to the lyrics and their rhythms. We obliged and were praised for doing so, carrying on long into the night. These words, guitar and melodies all seem as free as the man himself, a living man of folk lore, myth and magic. In essence this is a proper bard at work, both ancient in style and engaging in spirit. A smile from him is a glorious thing.
And then, with the strains of the much anticipated ‘Caledonia’ still ringing in our ears ‘Let me tell you that I love you, that I think about you all the time’, it was back to the shindig! De Temp re-joined the stage to perform two final numbers with Dougie, who told us they had not rehearsed or even jammed together. No matter, as we all sang Wild Mountain Thyme (Dougie’s slow version) together, everyone was near to tears of joy and a sense of communal experience. Another one-off triumph for the Paisley Spree 2017 (@SpreeFestival). And another reason why Paisley should be chosen as the UK City of Culture 2021 (@Paisley2021).
Reviewer: Daniel Donnelly