Gig review: Eddi Reader, Edinburgh

“IF YOU want to teach your kids how to sing,” said Eddi Reader, “shove them in a house full of drunks having a party.” She was talking about her upbringing in an Anderston tenement and the communal family bashes she would experience growing up, in this case as a prelude to a tender version of Moon River played in tribute to her mother. Yet the statement also served to illustrate the homely and intimate nature of her show, an experience where the stories and history meant something too.

Eddi Readers voice rang with both delicacy and confidence. Picture: Contributed

Eddi Reader - Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh

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So she told us about her life, including her early days “busking” with Alison Moyet and Eurythmics, and introduced the old concertina she once bought with money from touring with Moyet – it turns out she recently discovered through looking into her genealogy that the first Reader in Scotland landed in Leith from Prussia, a street musician who played the concertina.

A slowed-down, even more countrified version of her sometime biggest hit Perfect (as a member of Fairground Attraction) was preluded by the story of a drive home to her family door when news of its success came on the radio.

Throughout, her voice rang with both a tender, rootsy delicacy and the confidence of hard-won experience, particularly when interpreting Burns, a favourite subject, on Green Grow the Rashes and a version of Ae Fond Kiss dedicated to Margo MacDonald (“a fierce lassie,” Reader noted fondly, “I like that we make them like that”).

There was much too from her new album Vagabond, played expertly by her band in styles ranging from the smoky jazz of Baby’s Boat to the European folk of Play the Devil Back to Hell and the Scots balladry of In Ma Ain Country.

Seen on 25.04.14