Music review: Eugene Kelly

'I usually have someone standing next to me for this one,' indicated Eugene Kelly; literally, his right arm raised almost as though it were around an invisible partner. Of course he's talking about Frances McKee, his partner for three years in the late 1980s and for nearly the last decade in the Vaselines, to not inconsiderable cult success. 'Francis and Eugene,' he sighed, 'like Ant and Dec. She's always there.'
Eugene KellyEugene Kelly
Eugene Kelly

Eugene Kelly ***

Summerhall, Edinburgh

Except this time she wasn’t. This set was all Kelly, with just an acoustic guitar, a mouth organ and support act Dan Willson, aka Withered Hand, for company, and the effect was that some of the most anticipated songs here lost a little for his comrade’s absence.

In the absence of McKee’s choral voice and deadpan sarcasm, Jesus Wants Me For a Sunbeam and Molly’s Lips turned only on Kelly’s particularly Glaswegian vocal fusion of warmth and encroaching bitterness. Yet the intimacy of the setting also allowed his cultured ability as a lyricist and songwriter to shine through, and not just on Vaselines tracks like the above and the brisk Son of a Gun.

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Kelly’s post-Vaselines band Eugenius were represented by Flame On, and there were theatrical compositions from Michael Pederson and Alan Bissett’s political play Parley For Power (which uniquely comprised audience-participatory dog-woofing) and the 2014 Commonwealth Games’ community production Sports Day.

He fronted up to the possibly misogynist overtones of Stop the Press (sample line: “I kissed a girl just to shut her up”) with a detailed story of its origin, and dived into yearning ecological mode with Dear John, each track a clockwork-precise example of a writer investing much of themselves in a song without forgetting to write a good tune.

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