The Scottish folk rock scene has been topped for the last 40 odd years by Runrig who had a huge following across the country and beyond. There have been a number of other bands however who have been on a rapid rise following in Runrig’s wake and, following their retirement in 2018, the stage is now set for these bands to champion Scottish music around the world.
More than ready to take on that challenge are tonight’s two bands who over the last decade have built up huge following both at home and in far flung corners of the world. In fact, Skerryvore have spent so much time in the US recently I was half expecting them to be talking like native New Yorkers!
This sell out tour across Scotland was the latest in what is rapidly becoming a Christmas staple, indeed this is the third year running I have caught the two bands together in Stirling. Opening tonight’s proceedings were Manran who are arguably the more sedate of the paring. They play more traditional folk complete with reels and jigs aplenty and most of their lyrics are in Gaelic. The band have also undergone a couple of line up changes in the past months with Aiden Moodie taking over on guitar duties and Kim Carnie joining to provide vocals on some songs.
With the ever smiling Gary Innes up front on accordion and fiddler Ewen Henderson providing vocals and the odd bagpipe blast, the guys played a highly entertaining set that had the crowd dancing along. Of the songs which featured Kim Carnie on vocals it was ‘The Open Door’ that best showcased her talents.
The song also featured some excellent guitar work from Aiden Moodie who proved he is more than capable. Manran proved to be a hit with the crowd once more and are looking forward to celebrating their tenth anniversary in 2020 with a special Easter weekend gig in Fort William which sounds like it will be one hell of a party!
Skerryvore also have an anniversary to celebrate in 2020 marking 15 years in the business They are planning to do so in style in the grounds of Inveraray Castle in June with a few thousand close friends which, judging by tonight’s performance, should be well worth attending. The band were also taking the opportunity during this tour to record all the shows to feature on a forthcoming live album scheduled for release in 2020.
The band started their set in fine style with a full on twin bagpipe attack provided by Scott Wood and Martin Gillespie to get the crowd dancing once more. ‘Can You Hear Us’ followed with Alec Dalglish taking centre stage on vocals and guitar. Accordion player and band co founder Daniel Gillespie then took to the mic to introduce the next track saying that 2019 had seen the band travelling far and wide to play but they were always ‘Happy To Be Home’.
The set was culled from all through the band’s back catalogue with ‘At The End Of The Line’ and ‘Waiting On The Sun’ from their last album ‘EVO’ bringing things up to date. With Skerryvore the emphasis is firmly on having a good time and all the guys look like they are having a ball on stage, especially Scott Wood who appears to have the role of chief rabble rouser.
‘The Angry Fiddler’ gave Craig Espie a chance to wield his bow and impress the throng with his impressive fiddling. Alec Dalglish then got his chance to shine blasting out a solo on his trusty Telecaster which segued into ‘Live Forever’. A stomping version of ‘Rox Revival’ followed and had the Albert Hall crowd bouncing along.
The ever popular ‘Take My Hand’ rounded off the main set with the audience assisting Alec on vocals. The guys weren’t finished though and quickly returned to the stage accompanied with the guys from Manran for a mass finale rounding off with ‘Crooked’ before all took their well deserved bows.
Both bands proved yet again that the future of Scottish folk rock is in safe hands and if you can make it along to any of the anniversary celebrations of either band in 2020 I urge you to do so as you are guaranteed a fantastic night. Failing that there is always the Albert Hall next Christmas, just get your tickets quickly as I am sure tonight’s sell out crowd will be back for more.
Review and photos by Dave Wilson
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