Celebrating Abbey Road's half century

​Well, we hope you all survived last night’s Super Blood Wolf Moon. OK, so it was technically this morning, attaining apogee at 5.12am, but under Celtic Connections rules, especially at the weekends, it’s still today/tonight until you go to bed, then after that it becomes tomorrow: it just gets way too confusing otherwise. For those by then safely tucked up, it was of course pure selfless devotion to duty that enables our lunar eclipse correspondent to report that Glasgow’s skies, when the time came, were sadly but predictably overcast.
What a whirlwind couple of days it’s been: even Friday seems like the dim and distant past. BBC 6Music’s Cerys Matthews departed this morning after a whistlestop three-day visit, having broadcast a Celtic Connections special from Pacific Quay last night, tweeting “huge thanks” to Glasgow for its “mighty charm”, and “for one great unicorn ( all beasts) of a weekend”. (The three-hour programme, featuring blethers with Donald Shaw, Pictish Trail and Judy Collins, plus a delectable playlist of festival artists and Scottish classics, is available online until Feb 18.)
A recent edition of Matthews’s show featured a track from the mighty Shooglenifty’s new album Written In Water, a collaboration with Rajasthani ensemble Dhun Dhora, and the band tweeted during Sunday’s broadcast to credit Celtic Connections and Donald Shaw with having originally fostered this richly fruitful cross-cultural friendship. And it continues with this Friday’s big Shoogles gig at the Barrowland, where special guests include Dhun Dhora’s vocalist and percussionist, Dayam Khan Manganiyar and Latif Khan Manganiyar, as well as much-missed Tasmanian mandolinist Luke Plumb and the brilliant Galician collective Tanxugueiras, all preceded by Glasgow’s hottest new folk band, Kinnaris Quintet.
Amid a flood of other social-media raptures, there was a veritable torrent to itself for 2019’s Roaming Roots Revue last night, which saw both the Concert Hall’s stage and main auditorium crammed to the absolute max – choir stalls included - to celebrate Abbey Road’s half-century, in company with KT Tunstall, The Staves, You Tell Me, Lomond Campbell and Phil Campbell of The Temperance Movement. Newly joining the party, too, was The Sun King Orchestra, a full-scale, classical-sized line-up convened exclusively to up the ante yet again, for the show’s lucky seventh outing this year.
Tunstall her self proclamed it ‘One of my favourite musical nights EVER!’, while audience tributes included ‘Pure. Dead. Brilliant.’; ‘an extraordinary, delightful musical extravaganza’; ‘Not enough superlatives to describe it’; ‘Very cleverly put together and absolutely bangin’; ‘The Beatles never sounded so good’, and ‘Can The Staves do backing harmonies on every song I ever listen to ever again?’
TL; DR – from a self-confessed Beatles obsessive: ‘Beyond belief. 1000/10. Smashed it.’
Another happy customer declared it ‘impossible to rate the acts in terms of preference’ – but many others pronounced musical director and house band, Roddy Hart and the Lonesome Fire, as the night’s topmost treats.
Not that this was the only show in town: far from it. Weekend reports in from elsewhere at Celtic Connections include umpteen more raves for Brave In Concert - plus the heartfelt but slightly misjudged plea, following an event centred on a movie, ‘So gutted to miss this. Is there any way of watching it back? Was it filmed?’
High praise was also sung of the artist also known as Deacon Claybourne in US TV series Nashville, who played the Fruitmarket Sunday (‘I have never heard anything more magical than the crowd singing the chorus to “A Life That’s Good” at the Charles Esten gig’), as well as of Fourth Moon (‘passion, energy & beauty. Amazing!’) and Paul Towndrow’s Deepening the River – one of whose fans especially appreciated drummer Alyn Cosker’s ‘pleasingly perplexing distortion of the space-time continuum’.
My Darling Clementine complemented their audience and this city in turn (‘Glasgow, you never disappoint’), while another audience member at last night’s screening of the silent movie Fantômas - an avant-garde supernatural thriller from 1913, soundtracked here by Icelandic outfit amiina – particularly appreciated a ‘clever move by the detective to wear the nail-studded waistcoat, and thwart the boa constrictor’. Not a plaudit you’d naturally link to Celtic Connections – but we’ll take it where it comes.
To round off on a heartwarming note, we’d like a) to report that a full tray of left-over filled rolls from the Orkney Folk: Generations concert were given out to homeless folk between the Fruitmarket and the Holiday Inn, after the show on Saturday, and b) to relay a tweet from the one and only Findlay Napier, back again as host of the Late Night Sessions:
‘Sometimes I take @ccfest for granted. Last night a guy told me he hadn’t been sleeping for more than two hours a night worrying about his poorly old mum. The concert he went to let him forget his troubles for an hour or so and lifted his spirits. Folk music’s good for you :-)’
(Although Angus Lyon, for one, might beg to differ, having himself tweeted last Wednesday - before the festival even began – ‘I'm on the Pro Plus. . . these are healthy, right?’)