Celtic Connections: Eddi Reader and Leeroy Stagger

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Kings Theatre, Glasgow 
Wednesday, January 30th 2019


Glasgow’s venerable Kings Theatre seemed a fitting venue for the return of the ever-popular Eddi Reader to the Celtic Connections festival, Glasgow’s amazing annual sharing of music from all over the world. But first, we had a Scottish version of a transatlantic session as the packed King’s audience welcomed Canadian singer songwriter Leeroy Stagger to the stage to perform his unique blend of folk, blues and tradition, based simply upon two musicians on guitar and banjo.

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Leeroy introduced each song, telling us the story of how it came about and why they were performing it. They were simple songs with simple lyrics, sharing tales in a familiar old way of sharing stories that has been practiced across the globe in every clan or tribe. An amazing adherence to tradition, and yet somehow also a new, alternative take on things, encompassing, as is popular today, ideas of rebellion through music; a rebellion towards a new world of love and light. And indeed his soulful music succeeding in generating a feeling of love in the auditorium, a feeling taken up and built upon as Eddi Reader and her band strode on to the stage to begin their performance.

The ensemble of eight consisted of flute, accordion, piano, guitar, drum, double bass – an exciting array that promised much – and all presided over by Eddi herself in a striking red dress, which she commented on as she addressed us and told us how glad she was to be performing in the well known King’s theatre in her own home town, a town where she holds a well-earned special place in the people’s hearts. The city, and city life, were at the forefront of her stories that were set about in each of her songs. The old Celtic music with its sensual sound and simple lyrics were profound from the first song with the band coming to life behind her tremendously emotive vocals. The solos flew by on flute and violin and danced in and out of her melodies in a most attractive way.

The evening was marvellously produced and performed, each song touching upon a new emotion; there was partying, terrible sadness, lots of joking. Music to dance wildly to, music that represented high life, low life, tunes that would have fitted right in to any venue, from a cosy pub to a giant arena. All with Eddi always rising far above it, singing with a magical quality that held us and enchanted us. Her stories too were captivating, all the more so because of being a part of the performance and told in such a personal way that you could have no doubt of the reality of the life being represented in this glorious two and a half hours of sheer entertainment.

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Yet again, an evening like this creates a connection between a large live audience and graceful, generous artists who want nothing more than to heal the world through the love generated by simple and beautiful act of performing and sharing music. It feels like a privilege to share their heartbreak and their joy. It feels like this kind of evening is one of a kind but it is great to realise that music happens everywhere, every night, all over the world. And that’s what Celtic Connections is all about.
Reviewer: Daniel Donnelly

Reviewer: Daniel Donnelly

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