Wednesday 26 January 2011

Forever Young - A 70th birthday tribute to Bob Dylan at Celtic Connections

I've just about recovered from a quite sensational concert at the Royal Concert Hall on Monday night. 

Rising Scot's singer-songwriter Roddy Hart curated a magnificent bill of artists to pay tribute to the legendary Bob Dylan as part of Celtic Connections and celebrate the year of his 70th birthday.

At one point during the night, a visibly moved Hart recalled making the pitch for the concert to the Director of Celtic Connections, thinking that he may agree to a venue the size of King Tuts or Nice n Sleazys. However when the Director agreed to the gig, Hart was encouraged to pitch for the Concert Hall and was successful. Hart then set about inviting artists to join him, contacting Roseanne Cash via Twitter and proving successful.

If Hart was surprised by his success, I imagine no-one in the audience would have been. Hart was polite, genuinely passionate, talented, engaging and the perfect host, admirably backed by his band The Lonesome Fire for the night.

With all of the effort and time invested into the concert it was fitting that Roddy and The Lonesome Fire should open proceedings and they did that in fine style, roaring through 'Subterranean Homesick Blues'.

(Roddy Hart & The Lonesome Fire)

If Hart deserves huge credit for the night he put on, so too do the staff at the venue who ensured that the artists got on and off stage to join Roddy and the band for all of the songs.

The show started at 7.30pm sharp and finished at 11pm with a break in between, there was a lot to get through so lets crack on. The fill setlist is above so here we go.

Rab Noakes joined the band for a loving stomp through 'Absolutely Sweet Marie', keeping up the pace set from the opener, before Tim O'Brien and his band took us on a country tip for 'Maggie's Farm' before RH&TLF rejoined them for a gorgeous 'Lay Down Your Weary Tune'.

That was followed by one of my personal highlights of the night, a beautiful solo rendition of 'Buckets Of Rain' by Eddie Reader. Her voice was beautiful and her guitar playing exceptional.

Thea Gilmore then came back on with the boys and sand 'I Pity The Poor Immigrant' before launching into a stunning 'Masters of War', introducing it by saying it is still so meaningful today. It was powerful stuff and she rightly received rapturous applause.

(Thea Gilmore)

Gemma Hayes was up next, an absolutely gorgeous singer from Ireland with an equally gorgeous voice and a nice cheeky smile. The crowd responded warmly to her song choice of 'The Times They Are A Changing' before a beautiful rendition of the modern Dylan classic 'Most of the Time'.

(Gemma Hayes)

Kris Drever was up next with a solo rendition of 'A Hard Rain's A Gonna Fall' before Nell Bryden and the band played a great version of 'Just Like A Woman' and a romp through 'All Along The Watchtower' with James Grant on soaring guitar. Taking us to the break, phew! 

Every artist had a beautiful voice but the power in Nell's voice was something else, powerful and soulful.

Roddy and the band kicked things off with a beautiful take on 'It's Not Dark Yet'. The band were absolutely awesome throughout the night, top marks to them and Roddy for the hours of rehearsal they must have put in.

(Roddy Hart)

Josh Rouse, a funky wee guy, came on for a song I wasn't aware of but I'll be searching for called 'The Man In Me', following it up with a brilliant take on 'Lay Lady Lay'.

The band got a wee break while James Grant returned with a solo take on 'Simple Twist of Fate' before Laura Cantrell wowed the crowd with her takes on 'I Thew It All Away' and 'Mr. Tambourine Man'. She must like the 'Live At Buddokan' album as the rendition of the latter featured the flourishes in that Dylan version.

Young Scot's singer Tommy Reilly came on with his best Dylan impression on'It Ain't Me Babe', looking a bit like a young Dylan, if a little nervous at the size of the crowd.

I was then jealous of Roddy Hart as he got to share the vocal duties with Gemma Hayes on 'Oh Sister', their harmonies combining effortlessly. Rab Noakes then played a fantastic solo version of 'Mississippi'.

And still they kept coming....

'Blowing In The Wind' was a joy before the star of the show (well that was really Roddy Hart & The Lonesome Fire) Roseanne Cash came on, opening with 'License To Kill' before a great version of 'Girl From The North Country' that her Dad had recorded with Dylan.

(Roseanne Cash)

Roseanne was at ease, oozing confidence and personality and she had the crowd singing a long to 'You Ain't Going Nowehere' before Roddy invited all the artists back on for 'My Back Pages' and 'Forever Young'.

After a huge standing ovation Roddy came on solo to play 'It's All Over Now Baby Blue' before everyone joined him for renditions of 'I Shall Be Released' and a romp through 'Like A Rolling Stone'.

This was a great, great night and one I will remember for a long time. Top marks to Roddy for organising such an enjoyable and successful evening.

BMX Bandits 25th anniversary show

Bellshill beat combo the BMX Bandits celebrated 25-years since the release of their debut single with a show at Oran Mor as part of Celtic Connections on Sunday night.

There was an excellent turn out in the venue and it was pleasing that many turned up to see the support acts Randolph’’s Leap and Nick Garrie. Despite wanting to get in to see Randolph’s I unfortunately only caught the last song. I definitely intend to catch them soon as I have been enjoying their music on MySpace.

Nick Garrie was pretty sensational, taking to the stage with his acoustic guitar and a friend on lead acoustic, he had the audience (many of whom (including me), I presume, had never heard of him or his songs before) in the palm of his hand from the first song. According to online research he is best known for his 1969 album ‘The Nightmare of JB Stanislas’ that was out of print and only re-issued in 2005. Raised in France, Nick sang a beautiful duet in French with a girl called Sarah and was at ease talking with the crowd about his memories of writing and recording. I think I will check out the album.

On to the main event, the BMX Bandits. There was a real sense of occasion to the gig and frontman and lead Bandito Duglas T Stewart was in fine form, even more chatty and full of smiles than normal (and that is saying something). The ever-evolving Bandits line-up (with the exception of Duglas) consisted of Rachel (vocals), Jim McCulloch (guitar), Finlay MacDonald (bass), David Scott (keys) and Jim Gash (drums). Throughout the night they were joined by guests and previous Banditos; Norman Blake, Sean Dickson and Gordon Keen, along with Gavin from Randolph’s Leap. 

They opened with ‘Students of Life’ before launching straight into one of my favourite Bandits tunes; ‘Gettin’ Dirty’. Duglas was already in top form with his hand actions, and his energy transferred to the rest of the band with everyone raising their game. The whole set was fantastic, but particular highlights for me included; Norman coming on to sing ‘Serious Drugs’, Duglas introducing us to his apples, a sublime ‘Take Me To Heaven’ and ‘So Many Colours’ off the Bee Stings album, Rachel singing her heart out on ‘I Wanna Fall In Love’, fellow founding Bandit Sean Dickson joining in for the first ever song they wrote ‘The Day Before Tomorrow’ and a stomp through debut single ‘E102’.

A special mention must go to the song ‘Not Knowing You’ that Duglas sang on his own, accompanied only by the extremely talented David Scott from The Pearlfishers on piano. Introduced as a song about someone very special who Duglas used to work with, it really tugged on the heartstrings.

From tugging on the heartstrings with a soulful and emotional ballad, the Bandits were into disco mode with a sensational ‘Sing The Things’, another highlight from the Bee Stings album, complete with handclaps and whistles.

‘Disco Girl’ went back a few years, with Duglas sharing the story of how he had an unfinished song and popped a cassette through his good friend Norman’s door, only to receive a cassette with a start and finish supplied by Norman. I think that short story highlights how people respond to Duglas and his music, with love and support, with the knowledge that it will be returned to them without question. Looking around the venue you could see everyone with smiles on their faces during the songs, singing along with some, clapping to others and laughing at Duglas’ jokes and on stage banter. It was great to see and there can’t be many bands across the world that generate a real feeling of friendship and fun in the audience. Duglas’ natural charm, the loving and hopeful lyrics combined with melodic and warm guitar sounds had the audience at ease, everyone felt at home.

The Bandits left the stage only to be cheered back on for an encore, with Duglas even having time for a quick costume change, returning with a splendid Kermit the Frog green adidas trackie top to match his trainers. The encore was fantastic but over too soon, consisting of a beautiful heartfelt version of Daniel Johnson’s ‘Do You Really Love Me?’ and their traditional closer of ‘Witchi Tai To’ featuring soaring guitar from Gordon Keen. Not one to bask in glory, Duglas left the stage first, leaving an assortment of Bandit brothers and sisters from across the years to finish the song.

Ninety minutes of pure pop with songs about love and hope sent the crowd out into the cold January air with smiles on their faces and a warmth in their heart. BMX Bandits may not have had the record sales or recognition that some of their peers have had, but they have a place in many peoples heart and a documentary film planned for release later this year ‘Serious Drugs: The Story of the BMX Bandits’ could really raise their profile.

Wednesday 12 January 2011

Seventeenth Century EP launch at Captain's Rest, 11th January 2011

Last night I headed along to Captain’s Rest for the release of the debut EP by Seventeenth Century. I’ve mentioned them a few times in previous blogs and have been following them for over 2-years, so I was delighted to see their hard work over the last two years resulting in a lovely 10-inch vinyl EP, with the follow up already scheduled for April. I’m also pleased that new Glasgow indie label Electra French have added them to their roster, along with Mitchell Museum. I hope that this is the start of a productive label.

The entrance fee last night was a January friendly £3 and the 10-inch vinyl came with a download code, meaning that those that don’t have record players can have nice bit of art to display in their room and still get the mp3’s to play on whatever gadget they have.

Support for the night came from former De Rosa singer Martin John Henry and it was clearly apparent who in the crowd was there to see him and those that were there for the Seventeenth Century. The first two songs didn’t do it for me and if I hadn’t been driving I would have headed up to the bar for a beer. I’m glad I stayed though as things began to pick up considerably with a beautiful song that contained a lyric something like ‘you know I need a map, I don’t know my way around London’ followed by a song introduced as a rarely performed De Rosa song that had a playful guitar riff.

Henry was certainly warming up, introducing a laptop with beats and samples to accompany him and his acoustic guitar. He seemed genuinely pleased to be playing (I don’t know when he last played) and engaged in witty banter with the older people in the audience, while the young teenage girls sitting at the side looked at their watches wondering when Seventeenth Century were coming on. The last 3 songs were highlights, including a stunning song with a hook that went something like ‘You’re a ribbon and I’m a bow’.

Following a short break Seventeenth Century strode quietly on to the stage and a hush fell over the audience. The band consist of Mark Farmer (lead vocals and violin), Ryan Burns (guitar and vocals), Nicholas Grant (bass and vocals) and brothers Michael and Andrew Truscott on drums and trumpet.

The band quickly demonstrated why there is a bit of a buzz around them by kicking off with a beautiful, short instrumental ‘Amongst Other Things’, allowing them to limber up and it wasn't long before the trumpet and violin began to soar. They then all turned to face the drummer and to those that hadn’t witnessed them live before it must have sounded like they were tuning up, however the melodies and rhythm of ‘Roses In The Park’ appeared, with the band showing off their harmonies and Mark singing with all his heart, as he does every time they play.

The audience were captivated, the teenage girls in front of me mimicked Mark’s flicking of his hair as he got lost in the music. If the NME ever pick up on the band his hairstyle is one that could be replicated around the country. The elder members of the audience nodded approvingly at how tight they were on stage, with one seasoned gig-goer commenting to me at the end ‘they were on the money tonight.’ Nick on bass held things together, allowing vocals, violin, guitar, trumpet and drums to fly upwards and then drop down when required.

From memory there was a song called ‘Bags of Gold’ that I hadn’t heard before, a soaring instrumental, a beautiful ‘Countryside’ and a glorious ‘Young Francis’ that followed, with the last song in particular really demonstrating to any newcomers in the audience how majestic Seventeenth Century can be in full flight. Farmer’s jaw movement as he poured himself into the song with every ounce of soul and emotion in his body reminded me of Kurt Cobain.

During the last song the band jammed furiously with Farmer seemingly hellbent on ripping the strings on his bow to shreds, all of the band roaring along. Having the trumpet, violin and Farmer’s voice on board allows Seventeenth Century to create a unique sound.

Captain’s Rest wasn’t quite full to the brim last night, it being a Tuesday in January after all, but there was a healthy crowd and Electra French will need to start scouting now for a larger venue to accommodate their next EP launch as I expect that the vast majority of people that attended last night will be spreading the word. An outstanding performance.

Monday 10 January 2011

Celtic Connections - highlights

I was surprised to read that Celtic Connections has been running since 1994, I knew it had been a while but not quite that long. It seems to be getting stronger every year and 2011 will see 1,500 artists play in 14 venues across the city over 18 jam packed days.

So what is there to look forward to? 

Well that answer is going to be different for just about everyone, so I’ll attempt to pick a highlight form each day that may appeal to readers of this site (note I am writing this article for ). You can view a complete timetable of all events at

I'll certainly be heading to the BMX Bandits 25th anniversary show, followed by the Dylan birthday celebrations the next night.

It should be noted that the Celtic Connections Late Night Sessions are great fun and are very aptly named, they run every night.

Thursday 13th January, Torchlight procession from George Square
Celtic Connections kicks off with the traditional torchlight parade from George Square to the Royal Concert Hall. You can take part in this if you visit the website, be quick. It starts at 4.45pm and even if you can’t take part you should make the effort to get along and watch.

Friday 14th January, Celtic Connections Festival Club, Glasgow School of Art
I had chosen Grant Lee Buffalo at The Old Fruitmarket, but that is now cancelled so head along to the Celtic Connections Festival Club at one of Glasgow’s coolest venues – the Art School. On from 10pm. £8 to get in.

Saturday 15th January, Giant Sand and The Boy Who Trapped The Sun, ABC
TBWTTS is tipped for big things in 2011, catch him along with the cult legend that is Howe Gelb. Better known as Giant Sand. According to the Boston Globe he is ‘the mythical American cowboy spray-painted in strange, muted shades. Think art-school Neil Young, or Lou Reed wandering the Mojave Desert.”

Sunday 16th January, The Burns Unit and Broken Records, The Old Fruitmarket
The Burns Unit are a supergroup with no-one that is famous, however Scottish indie music fans will be aware of King Creosote, Karine Polwart, Emma Pollock and Future Pilot AKA. Their latest album is gathering amazing reviews, expect the show to be just as good. Support comes from Broken Records who are well worth catching.

Monday 17th January, Tom Jones at the Royal Concert Hall
The legend that is Tom Jones will be performing his latest ‘grown-up’ album, so you might want to leave your best knickers at home. However he may well drop in one of his hits if you are good. Support comes from the Glasgow Gospel Choir.

Tuesday 18th January, Danny Kyles Open Stage at the Royal Concert Hall
You never know who will turn up so pop along at 5pm to see who is on today.

Wednesday 19th January, Alasdair Roberts at The Tron Theatre
It would have been easy for me to plump for The Walkmen at Oran Mor, however get down the lovely Tron and be pleasantly surprised at the range and depth of Alasdair Roberts songs. He is also a little more 'celtic'. The support act sounds pretty cool too, a young Cameroonian by the name of Muntu Valdo who loops loads of instruments to create his sound.

(Alasdair Roberts, in his Christmas jumper?)

Thursday 20th January, Ani Di Franco, ABC
The ABC continues its run of great gigs with the prolific Ani DI Franco. I used to fancy her, just so you know!

Friday 21st January, Celtic Connections Late Night Sessions, Royal Concert Hall from 10pm
Friday night late night sessions are a bit legendary, get down for the craic!

Saturday 22nd January, Jah Wobble at The Arches
That master of bass Jah Wobble, who has played with PiL, The Orb and Primal Scream amongst others, brings his sound to The Arches. Working with a variety of musicians ensures that this will be an interesting night.

Sunday 23rd January, BMX Bandits at Oran Mor
Duglas T Stewart celebrates 25-years of writing and singing songs of love and hope with a special gig. Past members of the Bandits have been Norman Blake, Eugene Kelly and Sean Dickson, so keep your eyes peeled for special guests. Get in early for support from Randolphs Leap.

(Duglas T Stewart, BMX Bandits)

Monday 24th January, Bob Dylan’s 70th birthday at the Royal Concert Hall
I did hear a rumour that Bob may turn up, you never know with Dylan. However you will be treated to highlights from Dylan’s extensive back catalogue from a wide range of artists including the fantastic Roddy Hart and Roseanne Cash.

(Roddy Hart)

Tuesday 25th January, Red Hot Chilli Pipers at ABC
The well names Chilli Pipers are in demand throughout the world for their energetic performances. So this gig at the ABC is sure to be jam packed by locals and tourists alike. This is sure to be good fun.
Roseanne Cash is playing City Halls – also worth considering.

Wednesday 26th January, Seth Lakeman and Fisherman’s Friends, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall
Seth Lakeman goes from strength to strength, described in the programme as the poster boy for the Britfolk generation. Support comes from The Fisherman’s Friends who have apparently just signed a £1 million record deal after a 15-year career!

Thursday 27th January, Aerials Up at The Arches
I recently caught Aerials Up while I was in London and as I have yet to catch them on their home turf I may well venture down to The Arches on my birthday. The band have already supported Paul Nutini at the Royal Albert Hall and won praise from Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol fame.

Friday 28th January, A night of Celtronica at The Old Fruitmarket
This should be an interesting one, with award winning composer Craig Armstrong, PJ Moore from the Blue Nile and Future Pilot AKA and new Chemikal Underground signings FOUND.

Saturday 29th January, Roddy Woomble and Amelia Curran, St Andrews In The Square
Idlewild’s Roddy Woomble has been playing at Celtic Connections for the last few years in various guises, here he will be playing material from his second solo album but I would imagine he’ll play a few songs from Idlewild’s extensive back catalogue. St Andrews In The Square is a stunning venue, so if you haven’t been before, this could be the perfect excuse. Treat yourself to dinner downstairs in Cafe Source if you do go.

(Roddy Woomble)

Sunday 30th January, Fran Healy at The Old Fruitmarket
Fran Healy has achieved tremendous success with his band Travis, selling millions of albums around the globe. He is now branching out and going solo. His solo show at Oran Mor last year resulted in mass sing-a-longs of Travis faves, so expect more of the same here.