Gig review: Runrig, Edinburgh Castle Esplanade

Frontman Bruce Guthro got plenty of audience participation for many old Runrig favourites. Picture: Steven Scott Taylor
Frontman Bruce Guthro got plenty of audience participation for many old Runrig favourites. Picture: Steven Scott Taylor
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The flags were out for this self-styled Celebration in the City, marking Runrig’s 40th anniversary, prior to their big hurrah at the Black Isle Showground in a couple of weeks.

Runrig

Edinburgh Castle Esplanade

Star rating: * *

Saltires, naturally, billowed in the balmy evening breeze, but also Norwegian, Danish and German banners, reflecting where this Marmite-like band’s international fanbase lies.

As guitarist Malcolm Jones unleashed the first of several Edge-like salvos, one wondered why these veteran Celt-rockers became ghettoised while their Irish contemporaries U2 took over the world with their stirring, skyscraping anthems. The majority of their old-fashioned, middle-of-the-road two-hour-plus set then provided the answer.

Even when backed by sweeping shots of the Highland landscape, Runrig are not inherently rousing. Instead, they unleashed a compulsion in the Castle crowd to clap along politely, and with marginally greater animation when they moved beyond the blandly 
mid-paced.

All too briefly they dipped their toes into the 21st century with a folk electronica fusion, featuring propulsive drumming, ululating vocals and some serious guitar riffola from Jones, who provided most of the instrumental interest throughout this show.

But then they retreated to the safety of a sentimental streak of ballads, including Book Of Golden Stories, which was accompanied by a nostalgic archive showreel and Every River, which layered lyrical cliché on cliché but scored big with the crowd.

The encore, Hearts of Olden Glory, prompted a tender audience singalong.