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Party at the Palace

Linlithgow (Saturday 10th August)

By • Aug 11th, 2019 • Category: Gig review

Before any festival the chat is usually about the main attractions, but on this occasion, it’s all, in the words of Howard Devoto (sadly not on the bill) about the weather, with even dark mutterings about the whole thing being canceled, like Boardmasters in Cornwall and rather closer to home, the Perth Highland Show.


So we’re pleasantly surprised to catch Dunfermline’s Foreignfox on a sunny Breakout Stage. Rather bass-heavy, their anthemic sound doesn’t really kick in till ‘Birthday Flowers’, though we do get excellent vocals from singer Jonny Watt, and by the time they climax with a singalong ‘Bonfire’ they have the party well and truly started.

As per usual this festival is all about the hits, so we are able to catch Republica doing ‘Drop Dead Gorgeous’ as singer Saffron plays the crowd, reeling off a list of names of slightly earlier Scottish acts – “Roddy Frame, Simple Minds” who inspired them to make music. Sadly, although she seems in good voice 25 years on the sound is on the tinny side and we retreat to watch a muffled version via the big screens at the end of the sizeable arena.

Happily no such problems for Roachford, who it could be argued still has one of the great soul voices, and even if he doesn’t really have the hits, he gives the up-for-it crowd a good workout in the sunshine. His blusey croon is of course present and correct on ‘Cuddly Toy’, which is why we’re all here.

MIdge Ure

The London-born vocalist – now working with Mike + The Mechanics when not performing solo in open-air gigs – is now a staple on the revival circuit, which allows some acts of a certain vintage to, if they wish, pretty much phone it in to keep the mortgage topped up.

Roachford excepted, and likewise, Midge Ure. The former Ultravox frontman is still making new music almost daily, but, as can be seen from the almost constant grin on his face, is more than happy to trawl his back catalogue.
And what a catalogue he has – he’s able to chuck in solo tunes including ‘If I Was’, his solo number one, as well as some Ultravox classics like ‘The Voice’, pretty early doors and still have room for a string of top 10 hits. And there’s Visage’s ‘Fade To Grey’, which, as he points out he wrote and produced, and thus, Nile Rogers style, is entitled to appropriate as his own. And with an ’80s’ tour in the offing, his set is balanced between the festival crowd-pleasers, some Ultravox staples like ‘Hymn’, and for the more dedicated fans, ‘Call of the Wild’, a minor UK hit, which is met with a surprisingly vociferous singalong.

It’s evident that Ure still loves playing live, although he does ask for a little “help” on some of the tracks, and though the crowd are happy to oblige, it’s evident why – he is still in fine voice but he is very canny in ‘saving’ it for the big notes which would take their toll on a singer 30 years his junior.
What is also forgotten is how good a guitarist the one-time Thin Lizzy member is, and how much he loves playing, so a couple of long instrumental breaks give his vocal chords a well-deserved break, including an old Peter Green-era Fleetwood Mac instrumental. That’s before ‘Vienna’ is delivered loud and proud, and ‘Flower of Scotland’ somehow segues into closer ‘Dancing With Tears In My Eyes’, still emotionally-charged and still magnificent.

There then follows a not-so-brief interlude as dark stormclouds gather, and presumably a health and safety officer enters discussion (possibly with the festival’s treasurer) over whether the whole event should be pulled, despite there actually being no rain and just the odd clap of thunder. Admittedly the DJ-cum-announcer doesn’t help matters when his proclamation that we’re just about good to go is met with an almighty flash from the skies.

KT Tunstall (with Cat Myers)

Presumably the organisers are keen their event doesn’t go down as “the one where KT Tunstall got hit by lightning.” Instead, she will forever be known as “the loop pedal girl off of Later” – or, as she puts it herself, “Ed Sheeran’s mum”. There is however much more to her set – a rocking all-grrl trio including Cat Myers of Mogwai / Honeyblood fame that deliver tracks from Tunstall’s most recent release ‘Wax’. There are the hits like ‘Other Side of the World’, delivered with much gusto, a rather lovely acoustic interlude of ‘Under The Weather’, and banter aplenty as the St Andrews singer surely achieves her goal of inspiring the under-12s present to go and form a band.

But it still comes down to ‘Black Horse and the Cherry Tree’. There’s the tale of how she met Robert Smith at the BBC and discussed The Cure frontman’s visit to see his parents that weekend. Then there’s a reconstruction of the track itself, before her bandmates and roadcrew invade the stage dressed as shrubbery and in horses’ heads (recalling the wild live shows of bassist Mandy Clarke’s former band SuperAdventure Club), before the whole thing degenerates into a glorious mash-up of ‘Seven Nation Army’.

The Charlatans

With the skies darkening – not ‘extreme weather’, just that The Charlatans are half an hour late starting – Tim Burgess and crew amble onstage, and the misfiring Hammond organ of ‘Weirdo’ heralds the Manc-Brummie heroes onstage. They’re on form too, and in that way that headlining bands do, can dispense with ‘One To Another’ and ‘North Country Boy’ as they kick off with a ‘hits’ mini-set. With the skies properly darkening, we’re able to cut our losses and leave, unexpectedly dry and very much on a high.

Party at the Palace 2019

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