Main Auditorium, Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow, 25 January 2007
THERE MIGHT not have been a scrap of tartan in evidence at this Showcase Scotland music extravaganza at Celtic Connections, but as a showcase of Scottish music, the evening was definitely a whistle-stop tour of all that is good and ‘happening’ in the music scene around us today.
As the concert was being broadcast live for ‘Travelling Folk’ on BBC Radio Scotland, with Archie Fisher as fear an taigh, it meant that the artists were rushed on and off stage, given their statutory two or three numbers, and minimal chat between numbers.
Designed perhaps as a platform for artistes who are definitely on the up and up, if not up there already, it proved an eclectic mix of Traditional music with a capital T, Gaelic song, a bit of jazz in there, a hint of Indie from Iain Morrison and Roddy Hart, and finished up with a jazz and classical orientated ‘traditional’ orchestration from turmpeter Colin Steele’s Stramash.
Session A9 kicked off the evening in their own inimitable style and got the audience nicely warmed up for the next set by new trio Lau, comprising Aiden o’ Rourke, Martin Green and Kris Drever, in the run up to the launch of their new release ‘Lightweights and Gentlemen’. Kris Drever’s soulful and beautifullly warm rendition of ‘Unquiet Grave’ was at times, unfortunately overshadowed by over-heavy bass on the sound.
Steve Byrne followed with his Scots traditional song set, the only solo artiste of the whole evening. Sometimes song does not need extra layers of instrumentation to keep it warm – the song sings itself – demonstrated in fine style by Steve.
Julie Fowlis, together with her band – and a nice band if you can get it – in sparkling form, gave us one of the new tracks off her forthcoming album ‘Cuilidh’, and a couple from her first CD.
Fraser Fifield and his band dished up some fine soprano sax mixed in with more traditional instrumentation, and then we had some fine piping from Iain Morrison from Stornoway, together with his own Indie-influenced song compositions.
One of the finest young fiddlers around today, Jenna Reid and her band, followed in truly glittering form, and gave the audience more of what you felt they really , really wanted. An excellent and exciting piping set followed from Ross Ainslie and Jarlath Henderson on Uillean pipes, together with percussionist Iain Copeland and guitarist Tim Edey.
As a showcase of Scottish music now, it certainly showed us how the face of that music has moved on in recent years. Had it not been for the slightly rushed aspect of the evening, due to the broadcasting, the audience might have been able to relax more into the music and truly appreciate the finer aspects of all these hugely talented performers.
Being staged on Burns Night, it might have been appropriate to have had some representation of Robert Burns legacy of Scottish Culture on stage, but perhaps this was being done elsewhere in the Celtic Connections timetable on the night.
It is to be hoped that some of the Showcase Scotland agents and managers present will appreciate what a wealth of fantastic talent we have emerging in Scotland, across the whole Scottish music spectrum – they could hardly fail to do so on the evidence of this concert.
© Fiona MacKenzie, 2007