Tuesday night at the Glad and the place is busy busy, no tables left in the cafe before doors open and punters get into the music venue.
Pretty much a sell-out, but then with two well-kent and loved acts on the bill it’s a bit of a no-brainer even on a school-night.
Rick, playing an acoustic guitar with minimal strumming, is welcomed with a shout of “Haw, Mr Beard, could you tell everyone to take a step forward!” – this alleviated the massive crush at the back (people at these things seem to be too shy to stand closer than 10ft from a stage, they’ve paid to see the gig ffs…).
Rick’s songs are quite dark, mordantly funny and atmospheric, his very distinctive baritone expressively used on tracks like “Rainbows From A Bucket Of Coal’. ‘Any Way I Can’ sounded like a distant cousin of one of Nick Cave’s murder ballads, gothic and sparse… Regular Redbeard cover ‘Moon River’ got an airing (“most of songs are about the moon as I have a limited imagination” – don’t do yourself down Rick!) and Phantom Band oldie ‘The Howling’ (“from a band I was in, and am maybe still in”, he said enigmatically – if only, Rick, just one more tour would be so great..) sounded simply magnificent.
After a bit of faffing (keyboard stand collapsed with two keyboards on it – oops!) the latest iteration of Constant Follower took the stage, seated on school-issue plastic chairs. Tonight they were a six-piece with at least one new face since BM last saw them play at the SAY Awards last year in Stirling – they are again on the longlist for their collaboration with Scott William Urquart, ‘Even Days Dissolve’.
Stephen McAll was as usual the one constant (follower!) and he stared intently at the audience as they launched into a series of tracks mainly from the 2021 album ‘Neither Is, Nor Ever Was’.
Starting with ‘I Can’t Wake You’, the combination of voices (Stephen’s low, hushed voice, backed by warm female vocals, at times duetting), Stephen’s acoustic, the yearning pedal steel-esque electric guitar lines, understated bass, twinkling or skittering keyboard lines and washes plus occasional judiciously deployed percussion made for a unique and moving combination.
Comparisons could maybe be made with Cowboy Junkies or possibly Low but the writers and players here have melded any influences into something very much their own. The audience was quiet throughout (as the temperature rose to stiflingly hot!), only jumping into action to applaud after each track. With a real attention to musical detail and sound dynamics the songs kept flowing.
The minimalist, stripped back Americana of ‘The Merry Dancers on TV’ is an obvious highlight but likewise ‘Set Aside some Time’ and ‘Weave Of The World’ are also great moments in an excellent set.
(Images: from Stirling Tolbooth show, October 4th, by Stuart McHugh)