THE annual Glasgow Mela in June sees crowds flock to Kelvingrove Park for Asian music, food and clothing stalls. This one-off Commonwealth Games event was a smaller affair, tagged on to the Glasgow Green Live Zone and without the extras which provide so much atmosphere.
Mela At The Green
Add in rotten weather and a low turnout, particularly in the evening, and this was a bit of a damp squib.
However, that can’t be blamed on the acts performing, who gave their all despite sometimes being drowned out by other attractions in the park. Glasgow’s fusion veterans Tigerstyle played an uncompromisingly solid dance set, mixing infectious club beats with traditional Punjabi melodies. A never-tiring, beaming dance troupe accompanied them with simple moves which they later taught to the audience: watching people in waterproofs and brollies attempting “lightbulb” and “chicken” steps seemed somehow very Glaswegian.
Temperatures had fallen even further by the time headliner Raghu Dixit appeared. The Bangalore rock/folk singer is best known here for his love song No Man Will Ever Love You Like I Do, which made him a UK festival regular after a 2010 appearance on Later... With Jools Holland. Slightly taken aback to be playing to a handful of people, the ebullient Dixit exerted all his charm to get them going and gave handy potted context for each song.
But even without understanding all the lyrics, the breezy, melodic tunes and Dixit’s powerful voice needed no translation. While a bigger crowd and a sunny day would have been ideal, those shivering souls present still enjoyed themselves.
Seen on 30.07.14
WHERE some new Scottish artists seem to appear fully formed and chart-bound as if out of nowhere – Chvrches for example – others take time to find their feet. Apache Darling are one such rough diamond in the process of publically polishing up their act, but they’re going about it intelligently, as proven by this first show in a confidence-raising Broadcast residency – four gigs in as many weeks at the Sauchiehall Street venue.
The Glasgow electro-pop outfit are a duo led by the cut-glass voice of Stefanie Lawrence, backed by nimble synth playing from Andrew Black, with a live set-up fleshed-out by bassist Charlotte Printer and a Macbook loaded with pre-recorded backing tracks. The production quality and songwriting felt uneven across the piece, but when they found form there was much to admire about a band well in touch with the zeitgeist – some dubstep inflections here, a little of Chvrches’ head-rush hooks there – yet importantly not distracted by it from their natural predisposition towards sophisticated 80s synth-pop done with an icy Scandinavian sensibility.
Management from Brendan Moon, who was integral in breaking Paolo Nutini, suggests they’re on a fast-track to wider recognition, though not nearly as much as songs with the obvious strengths of Goal – impressively the first song Lawrence and Black ever wrote together – and Fortune. While the B-side Ghost from their forthcoming debut single sounded a bit overblown, A-side More Than Me – fuzzy, pounding verses, giving way to fizzing chorus – was first class. MALCOLM JACK
Seen on 30.07.14
Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings
FESTIVAL THEATRE, EDINBURGH
ACCORDING to a highly scientific poll conducted by Bill Wyman on the night – just holler if you have/haven’t seen the Rhythm Kings before – the majority of the audience at this Edinburgh Jazz Festival show were sampling the former Stone’s rolling roots revue for the first time. Judging by their response, they will probably be back for more.
Wyman runs a tight-but-loose ship, quietly helming this flexible collective of stalwarts and special guests including, on this outing, former Average White Band member Hamish Stuart, whose rockabilly leanings came out in a couple of his lead performances.
Variety was key, not just in repertoire but in the contrasting personalities of the players. The phlegmatic Andy Fairweather-Low came into his own during a deeply funky Harlem Shuffle, while there was competition for band comedian between pianist Geraint Watkins, who spun a good yarn surrounding Howlin’ Wolf’s 300 Pounds of Joy, and horn player “Little” Frank Mead who mined the demented humour of Buster Brown’s Sugar Babe.
Beverley Skeete, honorary Rhythm Queen, brought some serious firepower to a number of soul and rhythm’n’blues numbers. Other highlights included a jazzy reading of Johnny B Goode executed at a sultry simmer, Elmore James’s early phone sex number Talk To Me Baby and Stuart’s classy, mellow blues rendition of He Was A Friend Of Mine.
Throughout the performance, Wyman hung back, supplying his only lead vocal of the night, on Chuck Berry’s You Never Can Tell, in the Chas & Dave pub style.
Seen on 27.07.14
Paul Towndrow’s Pro-Am Suite
GLASGOW ROYAL CONCERT HALL
THE combined forces of the Ryan Quigley Big Band – the “Pro” half of the title – and the amateur Byres Road Big Band made an impressive sight arrayed across the width of the big stage at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, and the visual impact of this Glasgow 2014 commission was enhanced by three large real-time screens above them. Saxophonist Paul Towndrow, one of Scotland’s leading jazz musicians and the professional director of the Byres Road band, kept a sure grip on proceedings from the podium, and contributed a number of characteristically inventive solos in his own right.
The project to bring these two bands together centred on Towndrow’s specially written Pro-Am Suite, drawing on a sporting theme for the Commonwealth Games, but they warmed up with a selection of familiar material from the jazz repertory, as well as featuring Quigley’s fine band in his own Dr Stage.
While the Pro-Am division was clear, the Byres Road musicians acquitted themselves very well, playing to a good standard in the ensembles and soloing confidently when their moment came.
Towndrow’s Suite paid tribute to boxer Ken Buchanan and three more obscure athletes culled from the arcana of world sport – the saxophonist must have put in some some Google time on this one. The writing was never too demanding but always well thought out and put together, and left plenty of room for the soloists – both pro and am – to make their mark.
Seen on 31.07.14