Arab Strap & Hamish Hawk, Spiegeltent, Paisley ***
What a pleasure to welcome back Paisley’s compact and bijou Spree festival. This year’s edition is slightly bigger and more socially distanced than usual, but it retains all the vaudeville atmosphere of the Spiegeltent, which is just the environment in which to enjoy the confidence, charisma and character of troubadour Hamish Hawk – admittedly mildly diluted of his usual pomp and circumstance given that he was performing in solo acoustic style.
What the songs from his latest album Heavy Elevator lost in bombastic flourish, they gained in quirky eloquence, with the audience fully attentive to giving his arch pop vignettes their full attention.
Arab Strap frontman Aidan Moffat is even more conversational in lyrical style, and all the more eye-wateringly candid when backed simply by Malcolm Middleton’s delicately picked guitar and Jenny Reeve’s mournful, melodic fiddle.
The band took advantage of the stripped-back format and intimate setting to burrow into the corners of their back catalogue, diving straight in with Islands’ audacious blend of the rude and romantic and Here We Go’s anatomy of an argument.
“We thought we’d get the sad ones out the way,” said Moffat, before pinpointing new song The Turning Of Our Bones as being the audience’s only real opportunity for a shimmy.
Elsewhere, there were odes to morning sex and painful recollections of hellish hangovers, while Soaps was practically a torch song with its soaring violin and strummed chords.
The gothic prowl of Here Comes Comus! from new album As Days Get Dark didn’t translate quite so effectively to an acoustic set-up, with Moffat pattering away on a floor tom and the guitars being little more than a repetitive drudge.
However, their debut hit The First Big Weekend still sounded fresh and funny some 25 years on, with Moffat slipping in a topical update to take into account Scotland’s latest footballing victory.
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