Top Ten Gigs
It’s the top ten end of the decade, time to reminisce about some great times seeing musicians play in the Highlands. It’s been a great time for me, re-discovering gig going after all the years when a young family meant other things took priority. My only regret is that I don’t have the time and money to see more. Still, scarcity value counts for a lot. Anyway, here’s my completely arbitrary list of favourite gigs in the last ten years (or so):
Willard Grant Conspiracy, Caledonian Hotel, Portmahomack
Ah, the sun going down over the Dornoch Firth as Robert Fisher and band produced the richest, most complex sound wrapped around the sonorous vocals of possibly the most rotund human being I’ve ever seen; how did he fit on that tour bus? The most amazing thing is that the seven guys on stage put on a memorably beautiful performance for the seven of us sipping our drinks who’d turned up to see them. (OK. Maybe there were ten of us).
She-Haw, Invernairn Hotel, Nairn
Again, the sun going down, this time over the Moray Firth, as the She-Haw girls opened their set; acapella and in perfect harmony, they pinned us in our seats with ‘Oh Death’, familiar now from the soundtrack to O Brother, Where Art Thou?. It was a hairs on the back of the neck moment, just brilliant.
Wrinkle Neck Mules: Hootenanny’s, Inverness
The most testosteroine-fueled, supercharged blast of alt-country; strongly in the wave of music unleashed by Uncle Tupelo, this was the most fun I’ve had at a gig for twenty years and the Mules just blasted the Friday night crowd at Hoots.
Amy MacDonald: Belladrum Festival
Hauling the punters into the Grassroots tent on the strength of her (then) one hit single, Amy and her band played with the exuberant joy of kids who couldn’t believe all that had happened to them in recent months and we all bounced along to her songs, happy to share in her joy.
Drew Nelson: Argyll Hotel, Ullapool
One of my favourite songwriters to emerge in the last few years, playing his warm, life-loving songs on a beautiful summer’s evening as the light faded slowly over Loch Broom. Top moment, when he really won people over, was when he invited the mouthie player from house band, The Confederates, to join him and the fella just took off. That put a grin on everyone’s faces.
Tom Russell: Belladrum
Burning with energy and prepared to win people over by sheer force of personality. Folk singing along to ‘Who’s Gonna Build Your Wall?’ and Rob Ellen grinning and bouncing on the spot with sheer happiness.
Nels Andrews and AJ Roach: Hootenanny’s, Inverness
I’ve seen Nels four times now, but this was the gig where he showed how much he’d worked on his performance and it was intensely beautiful. AJ, a wiry scrap of a man, played with the intensity of Moses coming down from the mountain with the tablets of stone and was absolute