“It’s not too brothel-y looking, is it?” joked Chris Duncan of the large strip-light sign at the rear of the stage displaying the title of his latest album Health, which at the click of a remote he could light up neon green to humorous effect.
C Duncan, Maryhill Community Central Halls, Glasgow ****
The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland educated Glaswegian singer, songwriter, composer, multi-instrumentalist and visual artist exercises a tight and tasteful control over every aspect of his craft – from his deftly constructed dreamy baroque-pop songs with their lush choral vocals, to the crisp graphic design of his record sleeves. And even the decoration of his stage, which besides comedy light-up signage was furthermore arranged with pot plants and foliage – an apt aesthetic for a fresh and fun show.
Duncan knows how to pick a bandmate too. Andrew Pattie’s exuberant guitar work and Liam Chapman’s tidy drumming brought much to performances rich in clever detail, from the skittering beat of Other Side to the fretboard dancing riff of new-wavey latest single Talk Talk Talk.
But it was the vocals that really stirred the soul. Be it Duncan’s leads sung with a choirboy-like lightness and purity, or better yet the multi-part harmonies during chamber folk acoustic ballad Castle Walls, which saw band Before Breakfast added to a delicately transcendent eight-part mingle of male and female voices – a show-stopping moment.
Proving he’s not a complete control freak, Duncan let an audience member go wild with his lighting remote during Stuck Here with You, before dropping Health’s final track Care into the encore on request from Chapman’s parents, swaying along in the front row – a suitably generous conclusion to a set which had much to give. - MALCOLM JACK