Niteworks / Mercedes Peón

Celtic Connections @ Glasgow Barrowland Ballroom

The voice of the Gaelic poet Sorley MacLean rings out around the Barrowland ballroom.

Niteworks

“Our Gàidhlig language is under threat
Our young people are being bred for one thing
Emigration
Emigration
Emigration.”

So begins Niteworks’ big show at the Barras.

It felt like everything here was subject to careful consideration.
The songs tell a story.
There’s the mix of electronica, dance music, bagpipes, fiddles and song.
With a succession of guests appearing – guest singers and a string section made up of most of the Kinnaris Quintet.

Niteworks

The music sounds great, but it’s not what’s impressing me.
It’s the whole staging of the show.

This is a big show.
It has big lights and big projections.

Then there’s the stage layout.
With everything needed to keep the music running put at the four corners of the stage and the space in the middle for the guests or solos.

Maybe it’s the fact that they’re playing in the famous old dancehall but the level that they’ve stepped everything up to is incredibly impressive.

All of it makes me think of Kraftwerk.
Visually if not musically.

Mercedes Peón

Earlier Galician singer Mercedes Peón performed songs from her album Deixaas – along with singers Mónica de Nut on keyboards and Ana García alternating between sequencers, melodica and some rather strange percussion instruments.

It was a mix of Galician folk music, electronica, EDM and in places all quite industrial – which was a great word to hear her pronounce in her accent.

Almost every song had all three voices singing – usually together, as if they were chanting.

And almost every song had an endless drum beat that kept the energy and tempo up, at a volume that felt like they were punching you in the ribs.

Niteworks / Mercedes Peon

Mariza / Mischa Macpherson

Celtic Connections @ Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

“Hello”
“As you may have noticed, I am not Mariza”

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The first words that Mischa Macpherson said as she took to the stage with her band.

It’s a bit of an unexpected bonus to see her here and I think the same feeling for them to be here – performing an excerpt from her work ‘Bho Èirigh gu Laighe na Grèine’, which was commissioned for the Blas festival and the year of young people.

This work is built around Gaelic poetry but explores different things from what you’d usually find in Gaelic song.

Things like fairy tales of mice stealing teeth, and the hidden forests of North Uist, and the connection that the people of the Hebrides have with the world around them.

There are some unusual instruments involved too like harmonium and double bass.

It’s very atmospheric, cinematic even.

And of course, Mischa has the voice of an angel.

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As a choice of support I think they were well suited as both Mischa and Mariza are doing very similar things but in a very different way.

Both taking traditional music as a framework and building their own thing around it.
Portuguese Fado music in the case of Mariza.

Backed by her band playing accordion, guitar, Portuguese guitarra and percussion from left to right on the stage and with a big glittery gold backdrop, a little table and stool and a big performance space, the Concert Hall is almost transformed into a huge Fado club.

Mariza arrived on the stage lit by only one light and the first song started slowly.
The lights gradually built up with each song and as this happened she became more animated with each song, moving around the stage a lot.

She’d sing then go back to the seat, take a sip of water and tell us what the song was about, dedicating her set to her fellow Portuguese.

Now here’s a weird piece of symmetry for you.

Exactly 10 years and one day ago I saw Mariza in the same venue at the same festival.

In that time her music has explored more traditional older styles and more free, maybe even more commercial sounds. There’s a definite Brazilian bossa nova flavour to some songs that I detect that I didn’t before.

But really it all come down to the voice.

The power of it and the passion of her performances.

And I should know because I got something that no one else in the room got.

The first minute and a half of ‘Sou (Rochedo)’, the third song – the limit of taking photographs by the way – she sang to me.

Crouched at the front of the stage, into my face!

I don’t think I’ve ever had a more intense experience at a concert than that.