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Gig review

Arab Strap / De Rosa

De Rosa’s visits to the Capital have been plagued by technical problems. Last time I reviewed them a faulty microphone was the culprit, demolishing an otherwise excellent rendition of new single ‘Evelyn’. Tonight it’s a broken string that trips them up. Frontman Martin Henry takes it all in his stride, exhibiting a remarkably humble temperament for one so obviously talented, but it does cause their set to stutter in mid-flow. They end strongly with ‘Camera’ and a roof-raising version of ‘Cathkin Braes’, but it only serves to highlight what we missed earlier, thanks to that pesky guitar string. Let’s hope this curse doesn’t put them off returning to Edinburgh – with a future as bright as theirs, the capital will welcome them back with open arms.

Which brings us on to the night’s headliners, and the band that everyone’s come to see. After ten years of peddling their maudlin anti-pop the Strap have finally decided to call it a day, but rather than fading out gradually they’ve opted to sing us out with a farewell tour, bringing Aidan’s Falkirk drawl to the masses one last time. King Creosote might have been described recently as a “wee folk Hobbit”, but tonight Arab Strap come across as a pack of marauding trolls, even if Aidan looks more like a bedraggled, Magner’s-quaffing Gimli. As amiably bleak as ever, he manages to raise a smile and a few laughs while growling his way through their catalogue of songs about drinking, shagging and utterly failing to shag the various women in his life.

If there were still any doubts about the Strap’s place in the annals of rock then tonight puts them to rest. ‘The First Big Weekend’ receives the warmest reception, especially from the beered-up geezers down the front, but it’s clear that everyone here has a different favourite moment, and that their body of work amounts to more than the sum of its individual parts. Personally I’m a little disappointed that they don’t play my own favourite, 1997’s single ‘The Clearing’, but the stripped-back version of ‘The Shy Retirer’ that closes proceedings more than makes up for its absence. Tonight we’ve seen two Scottish legends gracing the Cabaret Voltaire’s stage, one on their way out, and one on their way in. Arab Strap will be missed – but Scotland has some new heroes to celebrate.

Dan Coxon