Review - The drizzle did not dampen the fizzle at HebCelt Thursday

It's July, it's the Outer Hebrides - there may be some moisture!

But the acts gracing the main arena at HebCelt Thursday made sure the sell-out crowd had the cockles of their hearts, well and truly warmed.

This year’s festival is set to become the most successful in its 23-year history and is on course to surpass the event’s previous most successful year in 2016 when Runrig appeared.

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Festival goers have poured into Stornoway and the Islands from the four corners of the UK, and from across the world, attracted to the HebCelt burning flame of fantastic music and entertainment.

Eddi Reader gave us a warm, funny and delightful set of songs and stories.

The line-up this year includes 70 local acts, as well as main headliners, such as Deacon Blue (appearing on Saturday), The Fratellis (tonight - Friday) and last night (Thursday) Eddi Reader and Skipinnish set the mainstage alight.

A bubbling atmosphere generated by the crowd ensured that the weather - admittedly dreich! - was ignored as people thronged into the main stage to enjoy songstress Eddi Reader at her best.

The temperature inside soon climbed as Eddi impressed us with her fantastic vocals and amused us with her anecdotes.

She told us about her family’s love affair with Elvis, whose memory she invoked in one of her numbers, she gave us a touch of romantic nostalgia in the 1950s-esque ‘Stardust’ from her - yet to be recorded - new album.

Skippinish pumped up the energy at Thursday's main stage ensuring the weekend's entertainment got off to a cracking start.

There was some Gallic charm, as she impressed us with her take on Edith Piaf’s famous, ‘La Vie en Rose’ - formidable!

And looking back to her days with Fairground Attraction, fan favourite ‘Perfect’ wasn’t left out of the playlist, with her rendition, of course, perfect!

Eddi went on to tell us an amusing yarn about the first song she learned with the band. The song ‘Fairground Attraction’, which reminded her of how she used to spend far too much money at fairgrounds with people like ‘Darlinda’ the fortune teller, who usually would tell her that the guy she was with was “a no user”.

She gave a shout out to the “no user”, old flame Peter Macfarlane (now a balding, painter and decorator with dodgy teeth) saying: “It’s 40 years on, but I’m getting over it!”

Tales of family parties where her mother Jean - the best singer in the family - had to be ‘forced’ to sing was a delightful reminder of how entertainment was back in the day.

Her mum’s number was ‘Moon River’, which Eddi then delighted our eardrums with to finish off what was a warm, funny and delightful set and a great opener to this year’s main stage.

As Eddi left the stage the crowd was eager for more of the same and soon the siren call of the Skippinish piper heralded the start of the next slice of the evening’s entertainment.

Skippinish are a musical force to be reckoned with and have managed to produce hit after hit of self-penned powerful songs and tunes which hit just the right spot with audiences.

Their set soon proved a treat for Hebridean ears as the band’s strong blend of bagpipe, fiddle and accordion gave us a stellar line-up of Celtic rock numbers.

A rip-roaring first number got the crowd pumped up before the band led us to a quieter moment with their song ‘December’, with their fans duly joining-in the chorus.

However, the party soon kicked into high gear again with ‘Ocean of the Free’ and its rollicking chorus of ‘heave away’, accompanied by fluttering flags in the audience illustrating the beat.

Mindful of their setting the band also included on their playlist their tribute to the Iolaire tragedy, with their number ‘Iolaire’. For this performance they were joined on stage by the Back Gaelic Choir and Ness songstress Ceitlin Smith, to spine-tingling effect.

Skippinish also showcased the charity song ‘Wishing Well’, which they wrote for Barra teenager Eilidh Macleod, who was tragically killed in last year’s Manchester Arena bombing.

These two numbers created some poignant and sobering moments to the Skippinish set and were a lovely counterpoint to the high energy, fun numbers which ensured that HebCelt Thursday’s tent was bouncing, as the audience gladly launched into the weekend with hands in the air and both feet off the ground.