A Night for Scotland: Vote Yes. The Usher Hall Edinburgh, Sunday 14th September 2014. A review.

"Nobody wears a frock coat and a hat better than Eddi"
“Nobody wears a frock coat and a hat better than Eddi”

Ricky Ross hosted the first half of this spectacular evening at The Usher Hall in Edinburgh. Stepping onto the stage to face what was the most partisan crowd I have seen at any event, Eddi Reader who has had plenty to say about this referendum business talked bit, sang some songs and worked beautifully with the crowd.

Nobody wears a frock coat and a hat better than Eddi, she looked great. Opening with a new song that has been on the back boiler for many a day it’s ‘Yes, yes, yes’ refrain was an instant hit. On then to Perfect of course before she finished with a meander through a catalogue of traditional classics, Loch Lomond, Jock ‘O Hazeldean among others.

If Eddi had pulled at the heart-strings, Dougie MacLean appearing on the big screen playing Caledonia snapped them good and proper, there were tears I tell you. McIntosh Ross did their best to follow that, and a few well judged ballads lowered the temperature just a wee bit.

That said, the anti-Thatcher ‘Wages Day’ was no less powerful for having been unplugged. But if you want to plug the rollercoaster back in, then who better than Edinburgh’s own Stanley Odd to ramp it up again.

"At the heart of the set was the call and response of ‘I say Stanley you say Odd’, and the crowd did"
“At the heart of the set was the call and response of ‘I say Stanley you say Odd’, and the crowd did”

And ramp it up they did. I had a sense that Solareye had a lot to say, but time was not on his side. High energy from the off, the hall was bouncing. At the heart of the set was the call and response of ‘I say Stanley you say Odd’, and the crowd did, ‘I say bed tax you say fuck that’, and again they did: with some relish. Closing with one of the most anticipated songs of the evening, ‘Son I Voted Yes’, there were more tears in the house, happy tears.

Now the rollercoaster analogy goes off the rails a wee bit here, Mogwai were introduced perhaps with the intention of drying those tears with their mighty sound; I’d heard they were loud, and I was not disappointed. It’s quite an experience, they move from a delicate ambient soundscape to a thundering wall of sound with a hint of musicality in the blink of an eye, especially with tonight’s final offering – ‘Satan’.

" It’s quite an experience, they move from a delicate ambient soundscape to a thundering wall of sound with a hint of musicality in the blink of an eye"
” It’s quite an experience, they [Mogwai] move from a delicate ambient soundscape to a thundering wall of sound with a hint of musicality in the blink of an eye”
It was like a Vespa being pursued by about a hundred Harley Davidsons down an alley, but quite indescribably brilliant. Time for a break and a running check on eyes, ears and a few hollow organs.

Ricky is replaced by Elaine C Smith as host for the second half and Mogwai are replaced with Amy MacDonald sporting an acoustic guitar. I have to be honest and say I’ve never been sure about whether I like her material or not. But then she’s a Springsteen fan so that’s a big plus for me and tonight she is in great voice; turns out Amy is the perfect welcome back to hall act. It’s damn near impossible not to sing along with ‘This is the life’ and once again the crowd are in full voice.

Franz Ferdinand were simply magnificent from first to last. I seem to remember they arrived on the scene declaring that they would make music that girls could dance to – well the lads in the hall had a pretty good attempt this evening. Quite simply it’s damn near impossible not too. Relentlessly rolling out one great tune after another, sharp immediate accessible hooks, riffs and lyrics power the set along at a cracking pace.

As ever with a band that has been this prolific, folk know far more of the set-list than they might have thought with the likes of ‘Do You Want To’, ‘Take Me Out’, ‘Love Illumination’ and ‘This Fire’ all evidently instantly recognisable. Brilliant, set of the year so far bar none.

I caught Frightened Rabbit at Belladrum in August and thought they were a wee bit flat to be honest; so I genuinely felt for them having to follow the previous blistering set. But, suffice it to say, they rose to the challenge and succeeded in at least keeping the rollercoaster hurtling along at a good speed.

Yet another band with instant appeal, they kept the hall bouncing and singing along with ‘Swim’ and ‘Scottish Winds’ going down particularly well. Indeed Scott Hutchison introduced the latter suggesting it was a song that was written for a night like this:

Come burl around my body Scottish blood
I’ll try not to spill a drop, I’m sure you’ve spilled enough
And the ancient English rule will mean nothing to these towns
Run forever in my veins bold Scottish blood.

And then with reference to the evening in general, he also said what many people were thinking, “It’s really weird, all of these songs, they take on a new meaning on a night like this”. Amen to that.

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Life-long engagement with music and a truly eclectic taste (although prog-rock and metal will usually have me scrambling for the off button). If pushed, I would have to say the Velvet Underground are one of the most important band’s of all time. Although I consider myself first and foremost a photographer, as regards reviewing I guess I cut my teeth in the vibrant fanzine scene of the 80’s. Around the same time I started taking photographs and, to be brief, performance and photography were made for each other: perfect match.