Van The Man

​Following yesterday’s polar opposite of Manic Monday, the Celtic Connections juggernaut was back to full momentum by the time of last night’s long sold-out performance by the Man himself, Van Morrison, which by all accounts fulfilled fans’ expectations and then some, with one blown-away patron describing it afterwards on Twitter as, “possibly the best concert ever in CC history”. Though there would, surely, be quite a few contenders for that accolade over the festival’s 22 years – perhaps others might like to tweet us their nominations? It’d certainly be interesting to see the spread of opinions.

Equally chuffed with her Celtic Connections experience was the opening act for last night’s other main show, Manchester-based singer-songwriter Little Rach, who tweeted that “Glasgow Art Club has some of the best acoustics outside the Bridgewater Hall!” – presumably not a comparison that the more charmingly bijou of those two venues has heard before.

On the subject of accolades, we’re touched indeed that one of our audience members has been so moved by the shows he’s attended, as to design and publish online his own special award certificate for this year’s festival, headed THISTLE DO NICELY! We hope you’ll forgive us blowing our own trumpet by re-posting the accompanying citation in full: “It is a credit to Celtic Connections that they can consistently create concerts which are more than just concerts - they are ‘an experience.’ Their interaction with performers, audience, media and even those with little knowledge of the Festival - is second to none.” Thanks so much – we certainly try.

Van’s audience also loved their show’s semi-surprise support act, inspirational US gospel/soul quartet The McCrary Sisters, daughters of Fairfield Four co-founder Rev. Samuel McCrary. To judge by their surnames, both they and the fellow US trio with whom they share their main concert bill tomorrow, The Campbell Brothers, would appear to have some Scottish/Celtic lineage somewhere in their makeup – but we’re sure they’ll win a homecoming-style welcome regardless. Regarding the Campbells’ show, hopefully the word’s well out already, but for those it hasn’t reached - those maestros of the Sacred Steel tradition will be performing their acclaimed interpretation of John Coltrane’s seminal album A Love Supreme, which hadn’t been fully confirmed at the time the festival programme went to print.

Even among numerous rivals for the designation, arguably the happiest man in Glasgow over recent days has been guitarist and gospel fanatic Stuart Nisbet, known for his work with the likes of Justin Currie and The Proclaimers. As well as his own musical tribute to the genre, The Gospel According to Mr Niz, on the bill tomorrow as support to Sara Watkins, Sarah Jarosz and Aoife O’Donovan, he’s also been rehearsing and performing since Sunday as part of the McCrary Sisters’ band – for him, perhaps the ultimate died-and-gone-to-heaven gig, which he’ll be savouring one last time after hotfooting it from the Mitchell to the Fruitmarket for their headline set tomorrow.

A couple of other programme updates: the home-grown Celtic/Americana duo of Jenn Butterworth and Laura-Beth Salter will now be opening for Gerda Stevenson in the Piping Centre – a rejigged line-up and change of venue, following Bonnie Dobson’s cancelled appearance.  Plus a reminder that Mànran’s show on Saturday has been moved to the O2ABC, with tickets still available. A last few choir-stalls tickets have also been released for the Transatlantic Sessions this weekend – but you’ll need to be quick. The Transatlantic cast have already begun to foregather for rehearsals, with both Danny Thompson and his beloved bass, Victoria, spotted checking in at the Holiday Inn, as Rodney Crowell departed in search of Mother India.

And lastly, to underline the fact that the early-week lull at this festival lasts precisely one day/night, Folkytown is back in residence at the Flying Duck from 10.30pm tonight and tomorrow, with tonight’s folk/jazz session hosted by the inimitable Adam Sutherland (fiddle) and Hamish Napier (flute/keys), Stu Brown (drums), Tom Gibbs (keys/clarinet) and Euan Burton (bass). We can’t imagine there’ll be much chin-stroking involved. There will be haggis, neeps and tatties on offer for the peckish – and look out for the announcement of tomorrow night’s special ‘celebrity’ hosts.