The Final Fling, Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh ****
Music played a large role in this year’s Edinburgh’s Hogmanay return, with this early evening concert on New Year’s Day’s making use of the Ross Bandstand in Princes Street Gardens for the third time in as many days. Add to that the First Footin’ event which took place in venues around the city during the afternoon, and as revellers and tourists wandered the city in a daze, a mini-festival of some of the finest new music in Scotland was happening all around them.
The first of three artists on the Final Fling bill was one whose music seems designed specifically for big stages like this. Edinburgh’s Hamish Hawk writes grand, epic indie-rock melodies with a pining literary lyricism. In blazer and white jeans, he was a particularly droll and polite presence, but his vocals and lyrics are full of yearning. “They will dance the Gay Gordons at my funeral,” he pined on Bakerloo, Unbecoming, before venturing into the somewhat unlikely lyrical territory of “racket sports” (his own bold introduction) on The Mauritian Badminton Doubles Champion 1973. His set was charming as ever, and it was well-received by the chilly crowd.
Young Highland quartet Elephant Sessions had less charming to do; where they’re coming from musically was apparent with minutes. Essentially they are a traditional folk group, led by the melodies of Euan Smillie’s fiddle and Alasdair Taylor’s mandolin, but rhythm section Seth Tinsley and Greg Barry add synths and electronic drums to the palette, bringing a strong element of the club to their crowd-pleasing ceilidh.
Headliners Tide Lines made the UK Top 20 with their debut album Eye of the Storm, and their third album An Ocean Full of Islands – part-previewed here – is due in the spring. They combined the best aspects of both their support acts, fusing folk melodies with big-chorused contemporary indie-rock, led by Robert Robertson’s powerful voice and charismatic presence. Songs including Another Day, Heroes, 17 Again and Walking on the Waves were epics of nostalgia and hope – the perfect soundtrack for a New Year.