Gig review: Alkinoos Ionnidis & Karine Polwart, Glasgow

EVEN by Celtic Connections standards, combining a folk-rock combo from Assam with a Greek-Cypriot singer-songwriter, plus Scottish special guest, was an eclectic bit of programming.

Karine Polwart. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Karine Polwart. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Alkinoos Ioannidis/ Karine Polwart/Papon

Old Fruitmarket, Glasgow

* * * *

But with much of the audience hearing both main acts for the first time, having taken a punt on the strength of said special guest Karine Polwart, it made for a warmly receptive atmosphere.

Fronting a rock-style six-piece, Assamese folk singer Papon set about reinventing his region’s traditions. The band’s guitar-led attack both buoyed and bracingly vied with his sinuous, spiralling vocals, by turns intensely yearning and blissfully serene, and elsewhere ranging impressively from near-guttural bassy depths to quickfire percussive vocables.

Alkinoos Ioannidis is a major artist back in Greece, whose stature as an eloquent cultural and political commentator has only increased in the course of his homeland’s recent travails. He’s also a beautiful singer, combining a richly resonant, mellifluous voice with his songs’ potent melodic allure. Gracefully accompanied by two regular cohorts on cello, ney (Middle Eastern wooden flute) and Cretan lyre, he received a hero’s welcome from a sizeable expat Greek contingent, but the rest of us received few pointers as to his material’s import. This lack of interpretative purchase exacerbated the rather relentlessly woebegone feel of his set – until Polwart came on and brought her usual magic to a few finely crafted collaborative numbers.