Arab Strap’s frank frontman Aidan Moffat and virtuoso acoustic guitarist RM Hubbert go back a long way, first crossing paths in Glasgow around 20 years ago and occasionally sharing stages since then. But this was their first tour as a bona fide duo, cryptically billing themselves as Aidan Moffat & RM Hubbert for the purposes of debuting their collaborative album.
Music review: Aidan Moffat & RM Hubbert, St Luke’s, Glasgow ****
Here Lies the Body is a smart, funny and intriguing suite of songs about a long-term relationship and the work required to keep it afloat, which allowed both of them to showcase their quite particular musical skills – Moffat’s merciless yet poetic pen portraits and Hubbert’s dexterous picking, strumming and tapping which blends flamenco and classical techniques with his own background in math rock bands.
They were backed on this inaugural outing by Arab Strap drummer David Jeans and singer and multi-instrumentalist Siobhan Wilson, whose fragrant vocals contrasted starkly with Moffat’s gruff half-spoken delivery on Cockcrow.
With Mz Locum, a raucous song of sexual surrender, Moffat wryly noted that they had got the happy song out of the way near the start of the set but, while the music was typically downbeat, it was full of interesting textures and embellishments and great, economical storytelling.
Moffat has said he laboured long over the lyrics for these songs but you would never know from the casual eloquence on display. Meanwhile the spontaneous repartee between the pair turned what could otherwise have been a fairly bleak odyssey of a mid-life crisis into a warm and witty celebration of shared experience.
Party On, driven by a percussive samba rhythm, was their best attempt at an original pop tune but they genuflected at the genius of Vince Clarke with a singalong cover of Yazoo’s Only You, rough round the edges but rendered with utmost tenderness.
They were also wise to a potential showing-up at the hands of Wilson’s opening set. The Glasgow-based musician is a seductive songwriter and a magnetic performer who can hold a room rapt with the subtlest whisper, possibly learned during her years as a jobbing musician in Paris. J’Attendrai is her sultry French language chanson, Make You Mine a coquettish yet steel-willed pursuit of a desired partner, and All Dressed Up a forlorn appeal for appreciation which never fails to get its way.