A Night For Scotland, they called it, and for those of an indie – or indy – bent, this star-studded event was just that.
Any naysayers in the crowd might have felt a little discomfited at the naked nationalism on show – banners, flags, and chanting aplenty – but it was a joyous occasion, almost completely good-natured, save the odd boo reserved for the mere mention of pantomime villains and bogeymen such as Douglas Alexander, and of course Margaret Thatcher.
The whole shebang was compered firstly by Ricky Ross, who also joined with Pearlfisher Davy Scott and Deacon Blue cohort Lorraine Mcintosh for a short acoustic set including ‘Wages Day’, while there were unbilled celebrity appearances from Kevin McKidd, and a certain Salmond and Sturgeon were spotted in the crowd although, sensibly, they left the stage clear for the music.
Another quick set from Eddi Reader – oddly dressed in hat and coat donated by her late independence-supporting aunties – who did ‘Perfect’ (of course) as well as Rabbie Burns’ ‘Wild Mountainside’, joking: “I love all the No voters too – I love them so much I want to give them a country”.
If there were any ‘unknowns’ on the bill, it’d have been Stanley Odd. But their three song ‘journey’ from uncertains to full-on Yessers also says something about Scottish music – ten years ago Scottish hiphop had something of a bad rap (sorry), but now, with Hector Bizerk, Loki and of course Young Fathers giving the genre a new respectability, it means that a band like Stanley Odd can play to thousands and win over every member of the crowd with ‘Son I Voted Yes’ which tugs at the heartstrings as well as the sensibilities – winning hearts and minds. Well, it might have if the vast majority of the audience weren’t converted already…
Mogwai closed the first half with four tunes from across their back catalogue – a mini Hits set if you will. Opener ‘Heard About You Last Night’ is perhaps in the vein that some present might recognise from the Les Revenants or Zidane soundtracks. So those Mogwai virgins present were perhaps taken by surprise as the four guitarists edged forward during the finale of ‘Mogwai Fear Satan’ and stomped down on the pedals marked ‘Destroy’ to end their set in the most beautiful wave of noise.
There was a break for either ice cream or campaign videos, before Elaine C Smith took over compering duties to introduce Glasgow’s Amy Macdonald – a lass more used to playing ‘Flower Of Scotland’ at Hampden rather than her own songs to an Edinburgh crowd. These included Greatest Hit ‘This Is The Life’ and a brand new independence-themed tune which, perhaps inevitably, was subject to a false start.
Franz Ferdinand are another stadium-filler, but seemed happy enough to play second on the bill – and, confident and relaxed, showed that they are still a world-class act. With Alex Kapranos leading the band with high kicks and a tight, punchy set, they charged through ‘Michael’, ‘Matinee’ and of course Take Me Out’, with its wordlessly anthemic guitar hook sung along with lustily by the entire stalls audience. ‘”I’m a man of few words,” Kapranos said, “but tonight I’m a man of one word, and that word is ‘Yes'”, before rounding off with a frenetic ‘This Fire’ which somehow, like so many ‘regular’ songs tonight, took on almost mystical significance.
And so to the headliners, Frightened Rabbit, another band who came out as “Yes” voters some time ago. Egged on by a massive support from the younger part of the crowd, they too played a crowd-pleasing set – though with the indie party close to fever pitch, the Bay City Rollers could have showed up and been carried aloft if they’d done a version of ’Caledonia’. For the FRabbits, they have songs in their locker to rouse and inspire – ‘THe Modern Leper’ and ‘Living In Colour’ the highlights before closer ‘The Loneliness And The Scream’ had the entire Usher Hall singing along with the “Woha woah woha-oh” ending long after the band have departed, and Elaine C Smith eventually giving up and joining in.
However, despite its easy-to-remember lyric, that’s not the national anthem (yet) – instead, the entire cast returned for a singalong version of ‘500 Miles’ as even the usually cool Franz and Mogwai (after some initial bemusement) thrown themselves into it. Truly a night for Scotland, and one which will be recalled by those present when “Independent” once again refers to DIY music rather than the long road to nationhood.