Well this is a first. My pal Ian suggests we go along to see one of his all time favourite bands, and I discover that the support is John Fullbright. I’ve seen acts twice in the same year before, but never twice in the same weekend. It’s a short support set tonight, but “Gawd Above” benefits from the increased volume the ABC can offer, and he rocks it.
Little Feat have never really been on my radar. One of those 70′s US bands that defined the mid-west sound for the likes of the Allman Brothers, Crosby, Still and Nash and The Eagles generation, I was always aware of them but didn’t listen to them so didn’t become a fan. However, Ian’s recommendations are always fine by me: I still remember the first time we met, in a student common room at Glasgow University where we were both studying English. As boys do, we got talking about music. “What’s your favourite band? he asked. Sheepish, I said, “Barclay James Harvest” thinking I would be instantly damned for being the most uncool student on campus. Instead, he hooted with delight. “Mine too!” he cried. “Well, after the Quo.” He got me in to them too; their farewell to the Apollo was a momentous event in my musical history.
I haven’t listened to music like this for nigh on 30 years. All of the ingredients of the finest Americana are there; fast cars, weed, alcohol and oodles of women pepper their songs, very few of which I dimly recognise, like their classic “Dixie Chicken“. Musically, they’re as tight as a drum. Only one original member – Bill Payne of keyboards – remains, but that’s enough to ensure they’re definitely not the Sugababes. Fred Tackett – the owner of the finest head of greybeard hair on the planet – and Paul Barrere are fine guitarists and front men, their solos feeding off each other, and Kenny Gradney is a superb bassist. There’s elements of rag, honky-tonk, blues, bluegrass all in there, but mainly it’s head down, full steam ahead boogie. If some of the epics slip occasionally into self-indulgence, that can be forgiven; longevity of this quality deserves a bit of reverence.
Fine, fun stuff.
A bit of good old boy Americana from Celtic Connections. Oklahoman John Fullbright, at the tender age of 24, is a terrific new talent.
He has a huge range of tones and styles at his fingertips, from classic maudlin country (never my favourite) to down and dirty blues, with touches of Jackson Browne and Randy Newman along the way. He’s a fine guitarist and piano player (he expresses delight at the beauty of the Art Club’s grand in the corner), and blows mean harmonica too. The big selling point, though, is his voice: I’ve always preferred the female voice, but there’s something exceptional about his, especially when he leaves the grit behind and sings so plaintively, as on “Me Wanting You”.
He has some big, big songs in his repertoire too, such as “Jericho”, “Satan and St Paul” or “Gawd Above“. These are sit up and take notice numbers. In an industry dominated by auto-tuned, overproduced banal mediocrity, you wonder if there is any space for a singer of his type; thankfully, the country music business in the US should ensure he’ll grow and have the success he deserves – and he deserves to be huge.
He is supporting Otis Gibbs, who is honest enough to admit that in a few years, the roles will be reversed. Gibbs is perhaps more one-dimensional than Fullbright, but that’s no bad thing. He’s a real train track troubadour, unsigned by any label; he peddles his stories across the globe, mistaken for a homeless person in Frankfurt, completely bypassing his gig in Stockholm and finding himself lost in Finland thanks to a dodgy GPS. And that life, he says, is good to him.
And his stories are brilliant, whether he’s recounting dodgy experiences in truck stops or telling of his bonkers upbringing in Wanamaker, Indiana, surrounded by naked hillbilly women, taken to the local honky tonk so he could sing for tips that his “uncle” would then drink away. In song, though, his stories are even more seductive. “Caroline” is peopled with the kinds of characters familiar from James McMurtry’s blue-collar desolation. I particularly like “Kansas City”, with that pin sharp setting of a desolate hotel room like a faded Hopper and the elegance of construction that turns “day dream” to “dazed dream”.
He’s a charming guy, that charm never more evident than in the appreciation he has for everyone who turns out to hear him. He goes off mike for the final number, weaving his way through the audience, serenading us all. From a big trucking bear of a ZZ Top refugee, it’s a remarkably sweet way to end a gig. A regular visitor, he’s well worth catching up with. Highly, highly recommended.
Cowboy Junkies seem to have been around for years, but rarely tour – not to Scotland anyway. I was into them about ten years ago, then lost the thread, so I was really looking forward to reacquainting myself with them.
Pity. The band is great – you can hear some fantastic musicianship in there, and Margo Timmins has a gorgeous, sexy, powerful voice. The music is spot on too: they showcase a lot from their new 4-album set “The Nomad Series”, including some Vic Chestnutt covers like the lovely “See You Around”, while others like “Renmin Park” or “Late Night Radio” are fine songs. They have a really intimate sound, all woozy chilled out feedback and fuzz. The aesthetic is cosy with a seductive edge, emphasised by Timmins’ regularly refreshed herbal tea and the vase of tulips on a table she has by her side. It should be great, and would have been if it had been in Oran Mor or King Tut’s or even the O2 ABC.
But it isn’t. In fact, within two songs, I know I’m going to bail early. Kelvingrove has organ recitals every Sunday, and that huge parping monstrosity probably works brilliantly in the setting because it can assert itself like an artillery barrage. This closed, introverted intimacy can’t manage that; jings, the front row of the audience is about twenty five feet away from the stage. With a ceiling disappearing into the stratosphere and galleries sucking up sound from the central hall, the music just disappears, and the effect is of some morose, half-empty midwestern dance hall on a Friday afternoon with a down at heel band playing to the saddest people you could imagine. The bass is a muddy blarp, the mandolin a distant squeak. Their songs are heavy on lyrics, but even Timmins – who enunciates beautifully – can’t make herself understood.
Perhaps the Gallery wanted a piece of the Celtic Connections action; perhaps the organisers thought there’d be some novelty value in having a cult band in this setting. But it just doesn’t work. It’s a huge, huge pity. I heard enough to convince me that I should get some more of their new music – the Nomad Series is on vinyl, by gum! – and listen to it on my unfeasibly wonderful hi-fi to get a feeling for what they really sound like nowadays. However, after their rendition of their classic version of “Sweet Jane” – which is surely one of the greatest covers ever, and the one we’ve been waiting for – we pack it in for the night.
Things sound so much clearer in the car going home…
I had begun writing a post about how flamenco guitarists are really sexy because no other man’s fingers can make a woman move like that: I’d also lined up a comment that Vicente Amigo is handsome enough to have stepped out of the Mediterranean episode of your girlfriend’s ongoing 50 Shades of Grey fantasy. However, that’s had to go, because for the second time in a few weeks, I’ve been to a concert that’s left me missing someone I love.
My dad would have been 100 years old tomorrow. In the 80s and early 90s, when I was just about mature enough to go on a night out with him but too immature to realise how precious that time would be, I took him to a few concerts. They were rare, but by gum we saw some crackers: Paul Tortelier and his daughter at the RSAMD; Rostropovich playing the Bach cello suites at the GRCH. Most of all, though, my dad loved the guitar.
I don’t know what kind of school education they had in Silesia in the 1920s, but it could make Curriculum for Excellence eat its heart out. My dad was multi-lingual, was taught chess at school and became a war-time army champion, and learned enough guitar to be a dab hand at it until Russian frostbite turned his fingers to claws and his knuckles to concrete. I think he always wanted me to learn to play, and made the mistake of assuming that because I could manage a tune on a flute I was actually really musical. He bought me a second-hand guitar in my teens, but my hands were too small and soft and I lacked the patience to practice, and so he used it himself, getting frustrated at his inoperative hands.
So he was a huge Julian Bream fan (he thought John Williams a bit flash) and we saw him twice; once, solo at the RSAMD, then, most wonderfully, playing Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez at the GRCH. I remember shooshing him when he got a little too carried away in the adagio; who the fuck doesn’t? I wish I hadn’t been such a prick, and had just joined him in a chorus of “We love you Julian, oh yes we do…”.
Within a dozen bars of Amigo coming on stage, solo, and launching into a dizzyingly brilliant flamenco piece, I wish so much my dad was sitting beside me. He would have been gobsmacked. I can see him now, leaning forward (a habit I’ve developed), concentrating himself totally, losing himself. I think he would have thought he’d just seen the one of the best guitarists ever: I know I do.
Amigo is some player. His brand of jazz-flamenco is fantastic, those Moorish elements that make flamenco truly multicultural echoed in a band that includes muezzin-like vocals from across the Med. He hasn’t updated his website for some time, so I can’t find the names of the band members, but they are all excellent. He has also been working with Celtic musicians on a project entitled “Tierra”, and the result is a persuasive fusion that hopefully will be recorded. However, surrounded by a dozen musicians, it’s always Amigo who dominates proceedings. It may be that his instrument is tweaked a little louder than anyone else’s, but it’s more down to the fact that whatever he does, it is twice as technically stunning as anyone else on stage. He starts at 9pm: I have to bail at 10.40 with no sign of him leaving the stage. Quantity and quality: how’s that for value for money?
I actually came to tick another fado star off my list: Carminho is the latest thing, and lovely she is too. Her voice is more fluid than many fadistas, with grace notes like oil, and she has a subtlety that some big belters certainly lack. She too has been working with a Celtic signer (Maeve… I lose the surname), and while Gaelic and the fado style don’t go together too well, certainly Carminho’s richness of voice complements the rhythms and melodies beautifully when they do it the Celtic way. It’s all precise and pitch perfect and perchink, and in many places gorgeous; however, she doesn’t move me the way some do. I don’t get the hairs rising on the back of my neck as I do when I listen to Ana Moura; nor do I get that overwhelming feeling of warmth and joy and bonhomie I feel when Ana Bacalhau struts her stuff. But I’m more than happy to blame the venue: as ever, the buttoned-up GRCH is no place to build relationships with a performer. I’m sure if I’d seen her live in the little Aqui del Rei in Faro on a boozy Friday evening, I’d be bowling off into the night in a daze, madly in love with yet another fadista.
My dad would have been too.
Finally got round to booking some of my annual Celtic Connections gigs. The line up is larger than ever – but, to be honest, nothing absolutely jumped out at me. However, I’m sure I’ll have fun.
First up is Vicente Amigo, the Spanish flamenco artist and composer described by Pat Metheny as the greatest guitarist alive. This, for example, is fabulous. Should be good, especially as he’s supported by yet another fadista to go gaga at: Carminho is 27 and the latest big thing in fado. I have her breakthrough album, and she’s excellent – though I don’t respond to her music the way I do to Ana Moura or Deolinda or Misza. It feels just a little too trad for me – but it’s another to tick off, my first fadista of the year, and there’s no doubting she has oodles of charisma when she sings something like “A Bia Da Mouraria“. To be honest, I’d love to go on holiday to Lisbon some time this year and trawl the fado bars: perhaps I’ll try to time it to coincide with Deolinda’s new album and get to hear them showcase it in their home town.
After that, I’m hitting The Roaming Roots Review, largely because it’s packed with lots of goodies I’ve seen over the last couple of years: the barnstorming Lau; the Fabulous Beth Orton; the drop dead beautiful Gemma Hayes. They’ll be some other goodies too: Roddie Hart produces some nice folk pop, and Amy Helm sounds good fun.
Then, if I can get the booking sorted, I want to see the sultry Cowboy Junkies. The online booking system seems a mess this year: it didn’t automatically deduct my 15% member’s discount, then gave me one wheelchair ticket for the Junkies and didn’t tell me I could have had two standing tickets. They’ll phone me back. I hope I get to see them: Margo Timmins is one of the most effortlessly sexy singers, and they produce gorgeous, tight music, including one of the best Elvis covers ever in their version of “Blue Moon“. It’ll be a blast from the past.
Then a night of Sahara Soul, especially to see Bassekou Kouyate with N’Goni Ba. I saw them in 2009, and it was my joint gig of the year. The n’goni is a fantastic instrument, looking like a four-stringed cricket bat you’d make in the garden shed; in the hands of these guys, it produces some of the most exciting music I’ve ever heard. Check this out. I’ve deliberately chosen the standing section at the Royal Concert Hall because dancing will be obligatory.
Finally, for now, every Celtic Connections must have a bit of Americana, so I’m off to see Otis Gibbs and John Fullbright at the Glasgow Art Club. Gibbs is a grizzled Steve Earle type, while Fullbright looks even more interesting. In his early twenties, he looks a great musician and songwriter, and may well be my find of the Festival.
So all in all, there’s plenty to keep me occupied. Unfortunately, some of the biggies are already booked out: I’d have loved to see Bellowhead, and the Transatlantic session with Mary Chapin Carpenter, Eric Bibb and Aoife O’Donovan would have been excellent, but I wasn’t quick enough off the mark. I’m also a little disappointed at the number of concerts in the seated venues: The Old Fruitmarket is one of my favourite venues because you can get a good jig on, but there’s nothing on there I really want to see.
However, it’s a good start to 2013, and, if I’d made it to Kazakhstan, I wouldn’t be seeing any of it…
Right out of the textbook of emo.alt.country.americana (in fact, he may have written it) that includes such oddities as Ray LaMontaigne and Bon Iver, Will Oldham brings a thoughtful, gentle set from Kentucky.
I’m reading a history of the Civil War at the moment, and Oldham looks as if he’s stepped right out from the photographs of Southern farmers who took up arms against the Union; either that, or he’s a 30′s train track troubadour, an aesthetic reinforced when he grabs the thighs of this jeans and jigs like a hobo with restless leg syndrome.
I’ve a couple of his albums, and like them a lot though find them a little one-paced. It’s the same with the show, but it doesn’t seem to matter because it’s all quality stuff: lyrically, he keeps you riveted with the complexity of layers of meaning that feel almost like sermons (“Don’t go to bed if you know that something’s waiting to grab you in the night and throttle hope from your heart / Don’t close your eyes if the ills are fornicating and conceiving of an evil to break you from the start”); musically, the impeccable harmonies (partly helped along by powerhouse waif Angel Olsen) and brilliant musicianship are more than enough to maintain interest. He reminds me of Don McLean in many ways, not of the overblown ”American Pie” and “Vincent” singles but of the folk-tinged intensity of albums like “Homeless Brother” and “Tapestry”, or songs like “Winterwood” or “Empty Chairs”. He has a similar voice too, I think: powerful, an extensive range, capable of real subtlety and emotion. It’s a fine instrument. He also has the same eye and ear for the details of life and love, and is brave enough to capture them in songs that lay human existence bare.
He examines the poverty of the dirt poor farmer in songs like “Quail and Dumplings”, and the influence of the hymns of the Bible Belt, harmonium and all, can be heard in “Cows” (which, like McLean’s “Babylon”, ends with a spine tingling round), while songs like “No Match” and “You Win” seem to speak of the emotional and physical exhaustion of… well, just living and loving, really. Not that this is in any way morbid: it’s gentle, honest, reflective, wry, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Support is provided by a Norwegian singer (the third in 6 months!) called Susanna Wallumrød . She has a good voice and plays the piano well. She also sings everything – including the greatest hits of AC/DC, Kiss and Dollie Parton - at relentlessly funereal pace. Hmmm.
The evening kicks off with Fernhill, a Welsh quartet consisting of a lead vocalist, a guitar, a fiddle and – a little bizarrely – a muted trumpet. It works well, largely due to Julie Murphy’s lovely voice, and there is one exceptional song, Glyn Tawe, in which fiddle player Christine Cooper recites a section of prose poetry that is beautifully evocative of summers in a rural idyll now lost: it’s the kind of stuff Kathryn Tickell does so wonderfully. This is a good band, but they’re not helped by the quality of the sound system, which is barely adequate for a school show.
Julie Fowlis is a charming, warm host, a mean player of the penny whistle and the owner of perhaps the purest and sweetest voice in Scottish music. She warms up with a few numbers, complete with cheeky interplay between her and her band. I’ve never seen her before, but she feels like an old friend, and that’s a very special charisma to be able to convey on stage.
“Heisgeir” is the main event. A film project she’s been working on for the last year, it’s a wonderful and vitally important cultural artefact, chronicling as it does the lives linked to the tiny deserted Hebridean island. The people interviewed – including the last person born on the island – are fascinating and heartwarming, and what is clear from them is just how much Gaelic culture has retained that we have lost. Their names – so, so long – are almost a catalogue of lineage, and their daily names, like Black Haired Iain of the Blizzard or McCordum of the Seals, are testament to stories passed down from generation to generation like the Epic of Gilgamesh. And what stories: the sole survivor of a drowned boat eking out his existence until his rescue by eating the ground tongue of the one cow that swam away from the same wreck; the horse that could tell the future, refusing to pass a point on the track until the day they found the body of a drowned lighthouse keeper there. Age, lineage, family, history – all are vital to these people. They wrap themselves up in the lessons of their past while we grub about looking only to the future, and that is a horrible, dark place where only work and debt and death await us. Oh, to know you’re part of something much, much greater.
That’s why one old man, speaking of the many versions of the song he has just sung, says that he learned it from his father, who learned it from someone older, “and,” he says, “I am happy with that.” That’s why the youngest person in the film, a middle-aged fisherman son of a fisherman, speaks of reciting the old place names so that they are not forgotten; names that identified a bay, a skerry, a cliff, a single rock; names that held significance because in them they told story upon story of the people who coined them.
Fowlis and her band, backlit behind the sailcloth used as a screen, interject some beautiful songs: she herself admits that the whole project started off as a film to support a musical project, but became a film with music because of the importance of the people in it. Appearing ethereally from time to time, they seem like the ghosts of the many men drowned at sea, or lonely spirits wandering the broken down community, or sprites amongst the machair. It is quite enchanting.
I sometimes hear people moaning about tax payers’ money going to support Gaelic. Let it die, they say, why should I pay to keep alive a language that I don’t speak and isn’t any use in the modern world? Well, this film gives us reason enough. I don’t want to live in a world so arid that we can’t look back on the people of only four or so generations ago, can’t watch films of them, study their photographs, and not know what they sounded like. Every language lost – and dozens disappear every year – means the loss of a history, of stories, of music, of meaning. Every language lost is like another endangered species tipping into extinction. The few quid it might cost me in taxes is worth keeping that alive, and I’d much rather spend it on this kind of beauty than hand it over in some banker’s bonus, or have it used to send young men to Afghanistan to kill and be killed.
I don’t understand Gaelic, but I care enough about humanity to know that to let it die, to lose all the beauty that “Heisgeir” shows us, to lose all that has gone before that these people have strived so hard to preserve, would be a crime of cultural vandalism as bad as any book burning dictatorship the world has ever known: perhaps worse, because it would have happened not because of ideology, but because of short-sightedness, selfishness and complacency.
If there is a God, he should bless this film and the lovely music it has inspired.
Well, Ana Moura, yet another flashing-eyed fadista I’ve wanted to see live for some time, was everything I hoped she’d be, and a whole lot more.
Let’s get the obvious adolescent boy stuff out of the way first. She is one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen. Dressed in a stunning black sequined and lace evening dress, she shimmers and explodes like a firework when she catches the light: “she’s like a mermaid,” my sister says. Indeed she is: a fabled, fabulous creature.
She’s much more self contained than many of the fadistas I’ve seen before; singers like Ana Bacalhau or Mariza throw themselves dramatically into the song, physically grabbing it by the throat. Moura’s style involves the merest swing of the hips, the drop of a shoulder, an inclination of the head, and the effect is just as mesmerising, just as sensual. She is utterly elegant.
But of course the star of the show is that voice, a lusty contralto that is capable of breathy subtlety, heart-rending sorrow or barnstorming joy, and Pedro, Angel and Phillippe provide the impeccable backdrop a voice of this quality deserves. Whenever I listen to fado, I’m transported to orange groves and beaches strewn with fishing boats and whitewashed villages where love is rampant and hearts are broken every day. It’s gorgeous. She sings songs mainly from her new live album, “Coliseu”, and songs like “Os Meus Olhos São Dois Círios” or “Sou Do Fado, Sou Fadista” certainly do it for me. Get it, listen to it, fall in love with it.
The second act is one of those weird combinations Celtic Connections delights in encouraging; if you thought teuchter salsa was odd, N’Diale combine the Breton Jackie Molard Quartet with the Foune Diarra trio from Mali. There’s no doubt these are fantastic musicians, but it doesn’t quite hit the spot for me. The Malian desert blues is great, and the set is at its most successful when the n’goni and the drum and Diarra’s beautiful voice are foregrounded. However, the Celtic jigs and reels bolted on seem a little irrelevant, while some of the contributions from the western instruments – bass and sax solos that are more like jazz than anything – are just a bit… well… self-indulgent. This is obviously really accomplished music, and I admired it: I just didn’t feel it, and while I wanted to hear songs, at times I felt I was listening to compositions. The audience too seem to drift, the enormous goodwill that flowed towards Moura turning into something more polite and reserved.
Along with quite a few others, we left early – work commitments tomorrow! – so perhaps N’Diale (which means, rather sweetly, ‘the pleasure of being together’) hotted up the house. I hope so.
Meanwhile, I’m off to sleep, and hopefully dream of fantastically beautiful dark mermaids who can sing my soul to life.
Whoo hoo! My favourite festival, Celtic Connections, has just announced its (partial) lineup for 2012. It’s not quite complete and I think a few big names will be added, but there’s enough to keep me interested.
I’ve already booked Bonnie Prince Billy at The Fruitmarket: Will Oldham is a bit of an cult oddball, but he produces some of the finest Americana around and makes some gorgeous sounds. Anyone with a hankering for Bon Iver or Ray Lamontaigne or Wilco should get themselves down there.
There’s a wide variety of folky stuff from around the world, such as Madison Violet (USA), Russian Red (Spain) and the terrific Kathryn Tickell and The Unthanks (England): I’ll try one of them, but haven’t decided which.
Two Scottish bands make a welcome return: Colin MacIntyre’s The Mull Historical Society are back after a few years and, most satisfyingly, Stephen Lindsay’s The Big Dish reform after – oohh – yonks. I love Lindsay’s voice: his solo albums – especially “Exit Music” – are utterly beautiful. However, the huge problem is that their gig clashes with Portuguese fado star Ana Moura’s concert. Moura is one of those fadistas I want to see before I pop my clogs (I’ve racked up Mariza – twice – and Deolinda, which isn’t nearly enough); this may be a once in a decade chance to see her in cabaret at the Fruitmarket. I reckon I might have to rely on The Big Dish touring like Love and Money did after last year’s festival. Oh, decisions, decisions! Moura and Mull – probably go for that.
Other possibilities: Lau are back, as are The Paul McKenna Band. Thea Gilmore is doing a night with Kris Drever (the guitarist from Lau) and his band – that might be a two birds with one stone opportunity. Luka Bloom might be worth a go – I love his “The Acoustic Motorbike” album from years ago and saw him at the Fleadh on Glasgow Green in 1991 – and the beautiful Julie Fowlis is a possibility. New performers like the excellent cellist Natalie Haas might be interesting too. And I’ll try to catch a couple of late night sessions.
Oooh, I’m so excited!
Oh dear – thanks to horrid assignment marking, I’m almost a week overdue with a blog about the last of my Celtic Connections adventures to see Richard Thompson, the bestest guitarist in the whole widest world. No pyrotechnics, no histrionics, no acrobatics: he just stands there and plays that powder blue fucker to within an inch of its life.
The first half of the show consists of his new album, the live “Dark Attic”. Thompson’s albums have always been a mixed bag: “Rumour and Sigh”, one of his most commercial efforts, has glorious tracks like “1952 Vincent Black Lightning” and the psychotically bitter “I Misunderstood”, two tracks that turned me on to his music because I never was a Fairport Convention hippy freak. And on the same album, there’s the cacophony of “Psycho Street” and “Grey Walls”, neither of which I think do him any favours.
“Dark Attic” is more consistent than others. “The Money Shuffle” and “Demons in her Dancing Shoes” are solid Thompsonesque rockers, while “Sidney Wells” revisits his tendency for telling warped stories. There are a couple of numbers that are steeped in his folky roots – “The Gorse and the Grey”, “Geordie” – and a typically over-the-top piece of indulgence called “Burning Man” that doesn’t work for me, largely because the melody shows the cracks in Thompson’s vocals. His voice has always been a love or hate thing: I’m in the former category, and I think there are songs that only he could sing, such as the soaring “A Love You Can’t Survive” from “Old Kit Bag”, but it does mean that occasionally a bum one slips through.
I prefer Thompson’s voice and guitar when he’s at his most plaintive and singing about wrecked lives and loves. A wee gem from the “Hard Cash” soundtrack called “Oh I Swear” is one of the most heartbreaking songs about poverty I’ve ever heard, and my favourite ever Thompson guitar solo is the two minutes or so at the end of “Why Must I Plead” from “Rumour and Sigh”, when his guitar gently weeps. “Stumble On” from the new album approaches those heights.
The second half revisits some of his greatest hits (with a small g, he takes pains to point out). “Can’t Win” is a cracker of a track, with that misanthropic snarl of “the nerve of some people” ringing out and Thompson going gently bananas with a five-minute solo that gobsmacks my pal Donald, a pretty mean guitarist himself. From gin-joint django jazz to the folkiest folk, Thompson’s breadth of reference is huge. There are the predictable shouts for favourites – “Beeswing”, “Vincent” – but there’s no point: Thompson has hundreds of songs at his fingertips, and the vast majority of them will do just nicely, thank you very much.
The only down side is the venue. The GRCH plonks people into seats and something then transforms them into wax dummies. Perhaps it’s the age profile of the audience – there a queue for the gents at the interval – but looking out over the stalls reveals a sea of perfectly still grey bonces. Most of these people were probably at the Old Fruitmarket two years ago, when head-banging was compulsory. Still, at least they get on their feet for the final, rip-snorting “Tear Stained Letter”.
I head off into the night, singing “I feel so good, I’m gonna break somebody’s heart tonight” at the top of my voice – and he didn’t even perform that.