FESTIVAL 2018 – the cultural wing of the European Championships – kicked off with this family friendly opening event just as normal Scottish summer weather service resumed. The Great Big Opening Party (right on one of those counts) featured a good cross section of Scottish acts, but no serious big hitters to galvanise the crowd.
Festival 2018: The Great Big Opening Party, George Square, Glasgow ***
This would have mattered less on a glorious sunny night rather than one where rain was either threatening or falling. Throughout proceedings, the atmosphere was good-natured and stoic rather than celebratory. So there was polite appreciation of the classical chart-topping Ayoub Sisters, Sarah on cello and Laura on violin, and their chamber take on the likes of The Proclaimers’ I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) and of the sumptuous harmonic soundscapes of fellow Royal Conservatoire graduate C Duncan.
Incumbent Scottish Album of the Year Award winners Sacred Paws fared better thanks to the danceability of their sunny Afrobeat guitars and post-punk spikiness, a hip foil to the anticlimactic official opening proceedings, involving underwhelming flag-waving, displaying of trophies, “inspirational” poetry, teen choir Voice Factory and a tribute to David Bowie’s unintentional sporting anthem Heroes.
Nina Nesbitt was more practised in how to encourage participation from a soggy crowd and soldiered on with a blend of her moody new electronica sound and older, catchier acoustic pop tunes before headliners Elephant Sessions rounded off a patchy evening with their slick but not always satisfying electric ceilidh fusion.