Music review: Celtic Connections Showcase, Euro 2020 Fanzone, Glasgow Green

Rura didn’t look like a group who hadn’t been able to play live for a year at this Glasgow Green performance, writes David Pollock

Rura PIC: Somhairle McDonald
Rura PIC: Somhairle McDonald

Celtic Connections Showcase, Euro 2020 Fanzone, Glasgow Green ****

“That was almost like a festival,” noted a member of Glasgow-based Celtic folk quartet Rura towards the end of their Friday evening headline set at the Glasgow Green Euro 2020 Fanzone. The sun was shining through, family and friends were dancing out of their picnic table seats (keeping to their groups and remaining distanced from others, as far as could be seen), and the purpose of the Fanzone after Scotland’s exit from the tournament crystallised.

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On a plain patch of Glasgow Green which normally holds tens of thousands for TRNSMT every July, the distancing in place meant an audience in the hundreds still felt substantial for the second of two Celtic Connections-curated showcases taking place while the football’s on. Playing their first live gig since before lockdown, Rura were also belatedly celebrating their first decade in existence as a band, the milestone of which fell last year (“it wasn't the best anniversary we could have hoped for”).

They seemed tight enough as a group as to have never been away. David Foley’s bodhrán played a deep rhythm on faster songs like the steadily-building The Dark Reel, making it difficult for the audience not to move. The combination of Steven Blake’s bagpipes, Adam Brown’s guitar and Jack Smedley’s fiddle alternated between a brisk dreaminess on Lust, the fierce ceilidh energy of The Glorious 45, and the tender, contemplative closer In Praise of Home.

The tone of that last song – also the title of the group’s last album in 2019 – drew an extra poignancy now, as did the fact it features the voice of one of the band’s grandfathers, one of two grandparents Rura members have lost in the last few months. With the smooth riverboat rockabilly of Glasgow’s Awkward Family Portraits and the Irish folk style of the Friel Sisters in support, this was a joyful concert which surely sharpened the focus of all its multigenerational audience on how live music accentuates the experience of the moment.

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