As I’m not expecting to get to anything like the same number of gigs in 2017 as I have in recent years I’m going to make more of an effort to share my thoughts on any live experiences. My only worry is that I’ve never really liked the idea or concept of the blog being used to rubbish something – that’s why when a new release or a gig has not lived up to my expectations that I don’t mention it at all rather than offer some derogatory observations. But I promise to be honest and be brutal, should the need arise, throughout this series.
My first gig in 2017 only came about from being badgered by MJ, a mate of many years standing and whose interests in music occasionally dissect with my own. MJ does like his indie music – indeed he was saying on the night we met up how much he had enjoyed Echorich’s ACR ICA as it brought back happy memories of seeing and then meeting them backstage in Aberdeen in the mid-80s when it took a great effort not to do his fan-boy thing and ask all about Joy Division/New Order/Factory Records. MJ however, also has a predilection for some of the traditional folk material that has been the mainstay of Scottish music for centuries and so he has always been a huge supporter of the Celtic Connections festival that takes place in Glasgow each January/February.
He was insistent that we go to a gig together this year and he gave me free rein to choose and I plumped for something on the final night of the 2017 event with Randolph’s Leap headlining at Broadcast, supported by Pelts. I did so on the basis that I thought MJ, knowing very little about the Leap, would find something enjoyable in their music and performance. I’ll come back to that in due course…..
First of all though, I want to give a thank you to Pelts for getting 2017 off to a decent start in terms of live music. I knew nothing about the band in advance and deliberately didn’t seek out any info beforehand as I wanted, as dear old George Michael advised, to listen without prejudice.
There were six members of Pelt on stage last Sunday – seemingly there is a magnificent seventh who plays a little bit of horn but who was otherwise professionally engaged and unavailable. That left us with two vocalists (one of whom doubled up on rhythm guitar), a lead guitarist, bassist, keyboard player and drummer. They were neither young nor old (although compared to your 53-years of age scribe almost everyone else inside the 200-capacity Broadcast was young) – the sort of folk who you could picture being decent and popular work colleagues; and nor could I help but think such was their technical abilities and lack of nerves that most, if not all of them, had been performing in bands for quite some time.
They played a set of maybe seven or eight songs, most of which started off quietly and then gradually built up a wall of sound to which all the musicians contributed impressively while the contrasting styles of the two vocalists – Graham and Natasha – suited perfectly. The set included a number of past singles, one of which they were rightly proud to inform us had been praised on social media by the comedian Johnny Vegas, before they brought things to a close with the two songs that were making up their latest double-A sided single that had been released specially to coincide with the gig. Maybe it was the fact that the band was naturally less familiar with the newer material but the two new songs didn’t quite seem to have the punch and instant appeal of some of the material, but again, maybe that’s as much to do with me having really enjoyed the opening 20-25 minutes and then thinking the eventual final running order didn’t quite work. But on this first exposure, I’d certainly be happy enough to go see Pelts again, as indeed I imagine would most of the those present, judging by the appreciation shown throughout the gig (nobody was talking during the quiet moments) and the loud applause at the end.
Here’s where you can read more about them as well as listen to some music. Here’s one of the past singles which dates back all the way to July 2013 :-
After a quick turnaround, all eight members of Randolph’s Leap came on stage for what was their first show of 2017. It was an occasion when they had asked fans in advance to make suggestions via Facebook and so it was odds-on that some old favourites would be aired for the first time in ages. Over the piece they delivered with aplomb, thanks to a 19-song set that leaned for the most part on the two studio LPs Clumsy Knot (2014) and Cowardly Deeds (2016) but which also delved into the earlier lo-fi releases that had earlier brought the talents of frontman Adam Ross to the attentions of many across the Scottish blogging community.
It was as confident, vibrant, self-assured and as tight a performance as I’ve ever seen from the band albeit we had the amusing and highly unusual sight of Adam forgetting one or two of the lyrics along the way. There was a great rapport with the near-capacity audience who, as with Pelts previously, behaved impeccably and showed great respect during the quieter moments. It would be great to think the rest of the gigs I head out to in 2017 will be similar….but I know it won’t work out that way.
MJ came away very impressed at what he’d seen. This was his sixth Celtic Connections gig of 2017 and it made enough of an impression that he raced to the merchandise stall to buy a CD before picking up a wonderful souvenir as the band, thanks to the help of manager Lloyd Meredith, put each of their signatures to the promo poster.
I know Randolph’s Leap don’t perform all that often outside of Scotland which is a real shame for those who do live further afield for they make for a great night out with the live versions of the songs achieving that rare and difficult trick of proving to be better than they are on record – and given that I went on record that Clumsy Knot was the best LP of 2014 you can tell I’m not offering the live observation as any double-edged sort of compliment.
Deep Blue Sea/Not Thinking/Real Anymore/Goodbye/Back Of My Mind/Under the Sun/Isle of Love/Microcosm/Psychic/News/Hermit/Like A Human/Nature/Counting Sheep/I Can’t Dance To This Music/Crisps
Weatherman/Indie King/Light of the Moon
The band also revealed that they will be next on stage in Glasgow on Saturday 1 April, headlining what will be the fifth of their own special curated festivals of music and comedy under the banner ‘Can’t Dance To This Music’. The other acts on the bill will be announced over the coming weeks, but given that these were the previous musicians you can guarantee quality:-
I Can’t Dance To This Music 1 : July 2014 (daytime event): Randolph’s Leap/BMX Bandits/The State Broadcasters/Skinny Dipper/Neil Pennycook (Meursault)/David MacGregor (Kid Canaveral)/Vic Galloway (DJ set)
I Can’t Dance To This Music 2 : November 2014 (evening event) : Randolph’s Leap/Teen Canteen/Ballboy/CARBS/Adam Stafford/Chrissy Barnacle
I Can’t Dance To This Music 3 : February 2015 (two-part all-day event): Randolph’s Leap/Tigercats/Withered Hand/Henry & Fleetwood/Eagleowl/Viking Moses/Prehistoric Friends/Kate Lazda (Kid Canaveral)
I Can’t Dance To This Music 4 : October 2016 (two-part all-day event): Randolph’s Leap/Kathryn Joseph/James Yorkston/Ette/Spare Snare/Book Group/Life Model/
Keep an eye out for tickets for edition #5. It will be a grand day out
mp3 : Randolph’s Leap – Hermit