Celtic Connections review: New Mendicants & friends, Glasgow

The New Mendicants
The New Mendicants
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IT WAS hard to escape the feeling that a lot of the people in this room had wandered into somebody else’s Saturday night.

New Mendicants & friends - Arches, Glasgow

* * *

On the stage, the two men in glasses were meant to be here, and the bulk of the crowd who were hanging on their every affably-delivered word seemed like they knew where they were. Off to the rear, sadly, the bar area was filled with an indiscreet hubbub of noise and chatter. It seems unfair to hook enjoyment of a show on the venue containing it, but this felt like the wrong place on the wrong night for the New Mendicants.

For those standing right up the front or possessed of an ability to tune out background noise, the delicate acoustic set had a lot to recommend however, particularly for those aficionados of Glasgow’s music scene for whom Norman Blake’s softly strained tones and simple strumming carries real resonance. Now based in Toronto, the bearded sometime Teenage Fanclub singer is one half of the Mendicants (definition: a religious beggar) alongside fellow Canadian émigré Joe Pernice of Massachusetts alt-country outfit the Pernice Brothers, and the pair’s combination of the hopeful and the careworn fits together beautifully.

They sat alongside one another wielding acoustic guitars and, in Blake’s case, a glockenspiel. Largely strip-mining the set from their debut album together Into the Lime, the pair played with downhome ease and a well-developed familiarity. They dipped into their own music (Teenage Fanclub’s I Don’t Want Control of You closing the main set in stripped-back style) and threw in the odd cover, such as the Go-Betweens’ chiming Oceans Apart. To those who were listening it was a show of understated grace and charm.

Seen on 25.01.14.

The New Mendicants play the Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh, on 23 March