Monday 21 January 2019

Abbey Road at 50, Celtic Connections

Glasgow discovered a fantastic way to banish the January blues many years ago - the city decided to launch a festival called Celtic Connections to celebrate the rich cultural heritage of music our small country is blessed with (and other music we enjoy too!). As many cities pubs and restaurants experience their quietest month of the year, Glasgow keeps on going as pubs, venues and restaurants are packed with people out to enjoy music and banter. It's the Glasgow way, we are a social bunch and like nothing better than to watch talented musicians with our friends and a beer.

Roddy Hart's Roaming Roots Revue has become a staple of Celtic Connections. Roddy and his excellent band The Lonesome Fire, become host and backing band for a string of artists to pay respect to great artists like Dylan or Petty, or scenes like the West Coast of America, or, in the case of last night, an album.

Abbey Road was the last album The Beatles recorded and it was released in 1969, 50-years ago. It's a nice round number, definitely an excuse for a party.

And what a party Roddy Hart conjured up. He's quite the host and knows how to choose guests that will get a crowd going. Last night, as well as being joined by a capacity crowd at the fabulous Royal Concert Hall, Roddy was joined by his outstanding band The Lonesome Fire, a forty (yes 4 0 ) piece orchestra and stunning artists; KT Tunstall, Lomond Campbell, Phil Campbell from The Temperence Movement, The Staves and new band You Tell Me (Sarah Hayes from Admiral Fallow and Peter Brewis of Field Music).

I did wonder how they were going to fill up a whole evening with one album, Roddy quickly informed us that each artist would come out to play 2 or 3 of their own songs with The Lonesome Fire and then they would move on to The Beatles.

Each artist was fantastic, Roddy is clearly a fan of Lomond Campbell and I'm sure he will have won a number of new fans after a heartfelt performance. The debut album by You and Me is literally just out, so this was a perfect opportunity for them to get the word out - the album has been picking up excellent reviews. Sarah Hayes beamed from behind a huge piano and he voice was sweet and soulful, combining beautifully with Peter Brewis.

Phil Campbell is not someone I was aware of prior to last night. I've heard of his band The Temperence Movement but have never checked them out, I will be after last night. This guy oozes cheeky charm and charisma (more on this later). His short set allowed him to display a raspy early 70's Rod Stewart style voice and he bounded around like a cross between Steve Marriott from the Small Faces and vintage Jagger. Oh and he melted hearts when his young daughter shouted Daddy when the crowd was quiet and he said he loved her.

The Staves are three young sisters who I will be checking out. Roddy introduced them by highlighting their classic songwriting and 3-part harmonies were winning fans everywhere - no wonder! They were spellbinding.

And lastly, KT Tunstall bounded on looking pretty cool in stripes flares and a vest top, playing 3 great songs and also giving us some great between song banter ranging from a drunken night at karaoke with her friends when she found that two of her songs were on the list - she played Suddenly I See - and also talking about playing in the pouring rain to two ladies giving it laldy at the opening of the new Queensferry crossing - the Queen had left and after that so had everyone else. The two left were her Mum and Nicola Sturgeon.

On to Abbey Road.

Roddy and friends made full use of the space and sound quality by getting a 40-piece orchestra to back them up! The sound quality last night was utterly brilliant - sonic goodness of the highest order.

My money was on Phil Campbell to sing Come Together, but it was KT Tunstall who came out and channelled the urgency, soul and humour of Lennon, setting a high bar for the rest of the guests.

Lomond Campbell accepted the challenge and his version of Something was beautiful, the way the song flows is sublime and the 40-piece orchestra took it as high as they possibly could and it soared during the you're asking me where my love goes, I don't know, I don't know section.

You Tell Me arguably drew the short straw with McCartney's Maxwell's Silver Hammer, but the melodies and humour carried the song and it actually made more sense live than on record. This is a song that Lennon famously refused to play on.

When I think of Abbey Road Macca I think of side 2. I'm not massively fussed about the above song or Oh Darling. My opinion of both changed last night, especially the latter as Phil Campbell took the song to another level with an astonishing vocal performance, whipping himself and the band to sensational heights. The look on some of the faces of people playing in the orchestra was priceless as Campbell shared, shimmied and cajoled himself to get every ounce of soul from the song. This was a stunning vocal and frontman performance and he received an extended ovation that was very richly deserved.

I love Octopus's Garden. There I've said it. I love the melody, the dreamy charm, the fact my kids love it and I love that Ringo wrote it (allegedly -I still kind of think McCartney might have had a hand in it!). It was nice of Roddy to hand it over to his drummer, Scott McKay, to sing. Scott had never sung a song in front of an audience, so when Roddy told us that, Scott had everyone on side. And he had everyone helping him out, it was a lovely moment.

Then we had Tunstall and Phil Campbell duetting on a powerful and sexual I Want You (She's So Heavy) that was a joy to hear and witness. The guitars were superb.

Then we had that spell binding side 2 which quickly developed to almost everyone being on stage. You and Me had the joy of Here Comes The Sun with a Spectoresque number of guitars helping the orchestra.

We had The Staves with a breathtaking performance of Because, we had You Never Give Me Your Money into Sun King, the romp through Mean Mr Mustard and Polythene Pam into the uplifting She Came In Through The Bathroom Window. Lomond Campbell, KT Tunstall and Phil Campbell all coming and going with remarkable fluidity. The ooh's and aah's delivered by The Staves were truly beautiful

Then it was into McCartney's stunning finale - Golden Slumbers, Carry That Weight and the most beautiful of closing numbers The End.

Only it wasn't, as per the album Roddy Hart played Her Majesty after the applause had finally died down.

What a performance, what a show! Top marks to all involved.

There was a little encore, as Roddy said, why waste the opportunity of a 40-piece orchestra! You Tell Me were at their best on She's Leaving Home and Penny Lane was a riot with every singer taking lines.

What will Roddy come up with for 2020?

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