Good news: the show is not just Big Eck cutting loose with a mic and some gags about Ruth Davidson.
Assembly Rooms (Venue 20)
We get a house band, two special guests, a genuine consideration of political movements as opposed to parties, a beautiful boy with a furry sporran and some jokes about Ruth Davidson. But I think we would have been happy with the man himself for an hour – he is a genuinely engaging bloke. Of course he is, he is a politician. But with Eck you feel there is a proper bloke in there. Especially when he’s not got his public speaking voice on.
He has a nice line in self-deprecating humour and when he rips his tie off (he is, after all, unleashed) and someone shouts “no more!” he just shrugs and says “aye, sumdy said that yesterday an a’”. He is much, much better off the cuff than with the scripted “banter” with the band. He is a natural entertainer and should be left as natural as possible. He is also properly generous with his special guests. Elaine C Smith is in the wing-backed chair today and the two are wonderful together. There is a great deal more than a little bit of politics in the show and their conversation is the kind that would have the Saltire flying over an independent Scotland before people have time to learn the words to the second verse of Flower of Scotland. There are questions from the floor and nothing feels overly contrived, even when someone asks if Alex would think about taking on the breakfast show on BBC Scotland. “I think I might have burned my boats with the BBC” he says, to much laughter. We also get Janey Godley in a regular spot which includes a live version of her Facebook hit where she provides Glaswegian voiceovers for various famous women. Talking of which, you have not lived till you have heard Elaine C Smith’s Glaswegian Gruffalo.
The real unleashing comes when Salmond takes his ego and a microphone in his hands and duets with Elaine C Smith in The Queen’s Maries. For a major public figure to have a festival show created around him is no big risk. But to get up and give it a go, alongside Elaine C Smith, when you know you are no Dougie Maclean, that takes an honesty and an openness that is unexpected. And sweet. His nerves are very apparent but he grows in confidence and by the time we all finish the last chorus together we are in the palm of his hand.
“You didnae tell me about that high bit at the end!” I hear him muttering to Elaine. Gaun yirsel Big Eck. Stoatin’ show.
Until 27 August. Today 1:45pm.