Tradfest review: Lankum, Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh

Edinburgh’s Tradfest got off to an uproarious, indeed at times near riotous, start at the Queen’s Hall on Friday when the Dublin band Lankum generated a raw and irreverent energy that felt both contemporary yet rooted in folk tradition. The quartet of brothers Ian and Daragh Lynch, Cormac Mac Diarmada and Radie Peat deliver keen, sonorous vocal harmonies over the instrumentation of Ian Lynch’s uilleann pipes, his brother’s guitar, Mac Diarmada’s fiddle, and Peat on harmonium, concertinas and whistles.

Lankum PIC: Miguel Ruiz
Lankum PIC: Miguel Ruiz

Lankum, Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh ****

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Some distracting badinage betwixt band and audience apart, they received an ecstatic reception. One or two items fell flat – a song about church abuses in Ireland proved a dolorous dirge that failed to project, while an instrumental Donegal version of The White Cockade either worked up a hypnotic, drone-heavy groove or simply seemed interminable, depending on your point of view.

Truly memorable, however, were the stirring tramp of Peat Bog Soldiers, an anthem that emerged from Nazi work camps, the powerful reproach of Cold Old Fire, an ebullient rendition of the First World War song, Salonica, and a ribald, tongue-twister of The Irish Jubilee. Peat excelled in What Will We Do? her voice as seasoned and world-and-weather-weary as an old Traveller’s.

A brief but impressive opening set from Brìghde Chaimbeul on small pipes ranged between the swirl and chirrup of the Bulgarian piping that fascinates her, to her native Gaelic repertoire and an unhurried musicality which brought a singing freshness to an old chestnut like Highland Laddie. - Jim Gilchrist