Life as a cult singer/songwriter has mixed blessings. On the one hand, a loyal fanbase who will turn out faithfully for every tour, making the gig experience intimate, even chummy, like catching up with old friends. Remember that time when…? What larks, eh? On the other hand, the relative struggle to keep the whole ship afloat with only so many hands on deck.
King Tut’s, Glasgow ***
But there was hope at this Tom McRae show when he spotted a young face in the crowd, establishing that they hadn’t mistakenly wandered in to the wrong gig. Because Tom McRae does make terribly grown-up music, presented here in his occasional trio format with the two Ollies – Olli Cunningham on keyboards and periodic percussion and Oli Krauss on searing, distorted cello – providing sparse, atmospheric enhancement to some broody new songs.
After a hushed, serious start to the set, the mood kicked up a gear with the rootsy A&B Song, its refrain instantly picked up by the fans. From here, McRae leavened the mood with deadpan humour, breaking his own “no Brexit chat” policy in seconds and undercutting the furrowed brow tone of the songs without undermining the music.
Apart from the melodramatic Sao Paulo Rain, they were understated affairs – his “bargain bin pop song” The Only Thing I Know was indeed throwaway – although the subtle harmonising vocals of McRae’s bandmates on Street Light were drowned out by the efforts of the crowd, who were rewarded for their enthusiastic participation with an encore of requests.