Gig review: Justin Currie, Queens Hall, Edinburgh

Justin Currie. Picture: Robert Perry
Justin Currie. Picture: Robert Perry
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“It’s a bit like church, isn’t it?” enquires Justin Currie, casting his eyes across the room and guessing right as to the former use of this building.

Justin Currie

Queens Hall, Edinburgh

Star rating: * * *

“Not that I’ve ever been to church. But there’s some **** onstage telling you how to live your life, I guess.” There we have in one soundbite the pleasing mix of sacred and profane that Currie’s muse encompasses – the kind of furrowed-brow religiosity that only a true country-rocker gets away with and a bit of wilful contrariness at the same time.

There was a genuine surprise in this low-key acoustic show, which featured just Currie on piano and guitar, and Stuart Nisbet on heart-tugging lap steel guitar. It came at the point the black-clad Glaswegian introduced a cover of the song Hard-On by Edinburgh’s Withered Hand, “an artist I’m really into”, and didn’t just play it but really did it huge justice as his richly expressive and rangey voice ensnared the track’s sense of weary anti-machismo.

Elsewhere, the sense of minimal roots Americana he’s brought to his new album Lower Reaches extended to sparse takes on Always the Last to Know, Driving With the Brakes On and Move away Jimmy Blue by his regular band Del Amitri, while his own tracks veered between a quite overwhelming lyrical inanity (I Hate Myself For Loving You) and a powerful sense of self and purpose (The Fight to Be Human, No, Surrender). When the closing Be My Downfall’s audience participation segment dissolved in collective tipsy inability, the gap between the attention his work deserves and the attention it was getting was stark.

David Pollock