Photograph courtesy of Kimberley Wilson.
Hootenanny. What a wonderful Scottish word. It means “party” or “celebration” and you would normally associate it with pretty wild partying and traditional dancing, more often than not fueled by plenty of booze. Tonight is Roddy Woomble’s Christmas Hootenanny, a far more laid back affair than the word might suggest but a celebration none the less.
It’s an interesting time to catch a solo Roddy gig now that Idlewild are back in the picture. The crowd is made up of a mix of Idlewild fans, fans of Roddy’s solo records and some that are no doubt fans of both. Helpfully there’s a mix of songs in tonight’s set that keeps everyone happy. It’s also a misnomer to think of this as a solo show. Roddy is joined by seven other musicians, people so ridiculously talented it makes me feel slightly foolish. None more so than guitarist and songwriter Sorren Maclean who opens the show with a few of his own songs. Look out for more from him in 2015, he’s opening for Idlewild on their UK tour.
The majority of the set is made up of songs from Roddy’s solo albums. These are folk songs, unmistakably Scottish sounding and brought to life by the band on display with piano, guitar and, most impressively, a double fiddle attack from Hannah Fisher and Seonaid Aitken who also add vocals. Songs like ‘Waverley Steps’, ‘Trouble Your Door’ and ‘My Secret is my Silence’ have a wonderfully gentle flow to them. Not necessarily cheerful songs but satisfyingly uplifting, no doubt due to the performance of the band as much as the quality of songwriting.
From an Idelwild perspective there’s plenty of interest too. We are treated to stripped down versions of ‘Quiet Crown’ and ‘You Held the World in Your Arms’, the latter sounding particularly impressive with the two violins bouncing off each other to tackle the lead guitar melodies. The effect is quite stunning and leaves a lump in the throat. We also get a couple of new songs from the forthcoming album. ‘So Many Things to Decide’ sounds like a big catchy slice of Americana and ‘Every Little Means Trust’ (song title could be wrong) is equally effective with it’s call and response style verses. These new songs sound great and I’m interested to hear how they sound with the full Idlewild treatment.
The festive side of the gig is fun. ‘I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas’ sets the mood for the evening. There’s a lovely, if somewhat improvised version of ‘In the bleak Mid-Winter’ and the evening is rounded off with a cheerful ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ which for the first time this year makes me feel full of festive spirit at long last. The band display some impressive jumpers with flashing lights but my hope of seeing Roddy perform dressed as Santa unsurprisingly never materialises.
The next time we see Roddy on stage will be with the new Idlewild lineup. A few acoustic gigs aside, it’s a long time since that has happened. It’ll be a welcome return for a much loved band. For now we’ll troop off into the Stirling streets for a few drinks feeling charmed by a great night of music and finally ready to embrace the holiday period. Merry Christmas everyone!