A triumvirate of acts from Paisley led by Paolo Nutini, plus the melodic Scouse pop of The Lightning Seeds, made for a particularly Scottish bill for 2016’s Concert in the Gardens, and a bold, lively start to the new year. Indie rockers Lemonhaze, appearing as one of the winners of the Hog the Stage competition for new bands, certainly looked wide-eyed and delighted to be sharing a stage with such an illustrious line-up. Lyrically raw, but with distinctive phrasing, singer Gerry Doran leads an outfit comfortable switching up tempos in the crack of a drumbeat, with Mercury featuring sharp guitar melodies carried over busy rhythms. Feel opens with a shimmering riff and ultimately swells into an expansive, danceable tune.
Edinburgh’s Hogmanay - Concert in the Gardens ***
West Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh
Art-pop quartet The Vegan Leather also rose to the occasion, combining post-punk brashness with 80s electronica sheen. The shouty, rebellious vocals of Gianluca Bernacchi and Marie Collins occasionally bring to mind The Arcade Fire, even while their overall sound offers nods to the likes of Franz Ferdinand and LCD Soundsystem. Single This House writhes and pulsates with fat electro beats, while The Knife is decidedly funky and makes the most of the interplay between the boy/girl harmonies.
Although it’s unusual for a band not to play their biggest hit, The Lightning Seeds were probably wise in eschewing English football lament Three Lions. Still, Ian Broudie’s capacity to command big crowds with an anthem was testified to by another timeless track associated with the beautiful game, The Life of Riley, a rollicking, largely instrumental belter that felt like it accompanied Match of the Day’s “Goal of the Month” sequence throughout the 1990s.
Blessed with Broudie’s wry poeticism, The Lightning Seeds will always evoke a sunny nostalgia for that era, even if lumping them in with Britpop feels more and more superficial as time progresses. His voice may not be the most powerful but bolstered by The Zutons’ Abi Harding on saxophone, the songs remain damnably catchy and energising as hell. The exuberant Sugar Coated Iceberg, the artfully exquisite Pure and the straightforwardly singable Marvellous and Lucky You all warmed up the crowd nicely for the main event.
Ridiculously handsome and with a soulful, sandpaper voice that can approximate everyone from Joe Cocker to Wilson Pickett, Paolo Nutini doesn’t have to give much of himself away on stage to draw the audience in, shuffling on and mumbling between the tracks.
Combine that gravelly enigma with funk-fuelled opener Scream (Funk My Life Up), seguing into Bettye Lavette’s sixties soul classic Let Me Down Easy, however, and you have a bravura introduction, particularly when followed by his full gospel acclamation at the start of Coming Up Easy (“Raise your hands if you know where you belong!”).
Old favourites Jenny Don’t Be Hasty and New Shoes were fused together to the crowd’s roaring approval. But the standout was the epic, Charlie Chaplin-sampling monster Iron Sky, which the impressively versatile singer delivered with an atypical emotional flourish, spitting the words with a resounding violence.