Gig review: Dougie Maclean and the RSNO, Glasgow

Dougie MacLean's folk songs got the testimonial his 40 years of writing and music'making
Dougie MacLean's folk songs got the testimonial his 40 years of writing and music'making
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“DO YOU like my band?” quipped Dougie MacLean, gesturing to the orchestra arrayed behind him, as if they’d been hard to spot. There were plenty more laughs where that came from at a show mixing the funny informality of a folk session with classical pomp, as this Perthshire singer-songwriter’s tunes were for one night only gilded in symphonic gold by the RSNO in celebration of his now 40 years as a keystone of Scottish folk.

Dougie Maclean and the RSNO - Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow

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Some people had travelled many miles to be here, such reach does MacLean’s music have – Boston, California and, um, Coatbridge were some of the exotic locations shouted out by audience members when asked. Ringed by so many talented players, MacLean got flustered with his guitar tuning at times – “normally I wouldn’t bother tuning”, he joked – but otherwise comfortably held his own.

Ornamented so lushly, the likes of Holding Back and Talking With My Father didn’t so much tug the heartstrings as harness them to a pack of shire horses. But the sentimental stuff was well balanced out with rumbling, rootsy audience-participation numbers – Robert Burns’s Highland Harry then later MacLean’s own Turning Away – and filmic moments such as a stirring rendition of fiddle instrumental The Gael, as featured prominently in the soundtrack to Last of the Mohicans.

Ironically, MacLean’s by far most recognisable song, Caledonia – which he’d “get lynched” if he didn’t play, he admitted – was perhaps the only number not to suit lavish orchestral treatment, which rather overpowered its humble message about being proud of where you’re from. But it was a mere smudge on an otherwise spotless show – the kind of testimonial every veteran Scottish singer-songwriter now deserves.

Seen on 07.06.14