Music review: Tide Lines, Barrowland, Glasgow

Tide Lines aren’t cool, they’re not trying to be cool, and that’s all part of their modest charm, writes Paul Whitelaw

Tide Lines, Barrowland, Glasgow ***

An unassuming bunch of Highland lads who specialise in stridently bittersweet folk rock, Tide Lines have honed a successful formula during the eight years they’ve been together. Most of their originals are basically Wild Mountain Thyme and any number of traditional Celtic folk standards reconfigured as (politely) rocking “anthems” replete with wordless vocal hooks designed to encourage mass singalongs. It’s effective in the sense of achieving exactly what it sets out to do. These guys are nothing if not professional. I bet they go down a storm on the main stage at T the Park at around mid-afternoon.

And if that all sounds like a backhanded compliment, well, I can’t deny the inherent likeability of over the hills and faraway gallopers such as Young and Restless, Any Heart in a Storm and especially Far Side of the World. Frontman Robert Robertson’s unabashedly romantic lyrics are preoccupied with nostalgia and homesickness. He’s not the first to realise that if you tie those universal themes to universal music, then resistance is pretty much futile.

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Tide LinesTide Lines
Tide Lines

Granted, their shtick overplays its hand during guitarist Alasdair Turner’s mid-set bagpipe solo, which, while perfectly proficient, veers unwittingly into Spinal Tap-esque bathos. I do however quite admire their total commitment to sincerity at all costs. Tide Lines aren’t cool, they’re not trying to be cool, and that’s all part of their modest charm.

This was the first of three sold out nights at the Barrowlands, and I get why they’re popular enough to pull off such a feat. They’re a boy-next-door melange of Big Country, Springsteen and Travis – Robertson even performed a solo acoustic version of Why Does It Always Rain on Me? in tribute to his fellow Barrowlands hall-of-famers. Should you need it, the formula works.