Could this have been one of the best gigs of the year to go with one of the best albums of the year?
From the start it was a Christmas present of treats. Malcolm Middleton warmed up a crowd sat on the solid wooden pews of the chilly St Giles-in-the-fields, a beautiful church with grand lighting and a twinkling Christmas tree.
His bleak and melancholic songs littered with dark humour had the audience in fits of giggles and shouting for more, especially his festive tunes.
“Last year I got knives for Christmas,” he sang before performing his Christmas classic We’re All Going to Die. It was a packed set; a wonder, as Middleton admitted he thought he was only doing half an hour and bluffed his way through the last quarter with help from the audience and comically long intros, ending with his fantastic yet heart-breaking Devil And The Angel.
James Yorkston began solo, starting with a couple of his older songs and showcasing his great guitar playing, its bluesy twang and his even bluesier hip wobble.
B’s Jig was the first song from his latest album, the amazing When The Haar Rolls In. Yorkston was joined on stage by his band, The Athletes – a wonderful quartet of accordion, violin, clarinet and a sage green bass. The sound rattled and reverberated throughout the church while the audience watched captivated and silent. The clarinet’s deep notes were like a male choir. It was gorgeous. There were shouts of “beautiful” and “incredible” from the crowd as the song came to an end – and the gig was only going to get better.
Yorkston’s clanky and “cheap” guitar sounded wonderful in his album’s title track and images of a stormy Scottish seaside were brought to mind. And it was a delight when Yorkston chatted away on stage as he tried to multitask and tune his guitar. A particular gem was a tale about a sleeper train, a posh man, a bag and a goose. Then came a cheery welcome for fellow Fence Collective musician Johnny Lynch of The Pictish Trail and a girl named Rosie who joined Yorkston for a beautiful – and hilarious – rendition of Tortoise Regrets Hare.
Dreamy wonder was revisited with The Queen Of Spain. The band and the new backing vocals seemed to melt together and clarinet player Sarah Scutt shined like a Christmas fairy during her solo.
The gig came to an end, apart from a short encore, with the most wonderful, unbelievably gorgeous and captivating performance of Midnight Feast; everyone was singing, playing and loving the moment. And everyone left smiling.