Apr 202017
 

80s Hollywood hair metal legends reunite for an evening of rock to a small, but appreciative, audience. Craig Chisholm reviews.

Fate can be funny but also cruel at times.
Take the case of a couple of 80s rock bands that have seen members come and go but recently reunited their singers and lead guitarists for the first time in years. One of these bands is called Guns n’ Roses. You’ve probably heard of them and you know their story.

Singer Axl Rose and guitarist Slash are touring together for the first time since the early 90s.

It’s a huge, lucrative, money-spinning event that takes in stadiums all over the globe. If you want to see them then their only British dates are at the London Stadium in June where they’ll play in front of 160,000 fans over two nights.

The other band are their former peers – the similarly titled LA Guns.

Their origins are intertwined – Tracii Guns was the original guitarist for Guns n’ Roses back in 1984 before falling out with Axl Rose and departing the band. He then formed a new band and worked with various singers before teaming up with vocalist Phil Lewis and having some minor commercial success in the late 80s and early 90s.

The commercial peak didn’t last long though, mostly due to the rise of Nirvana and grunge, before Lewis and Tracii Guns finally parted company in the late 90s.
Weirdly, both toured as separate incarnations of LA Guns for most of the early noughties before, like Axl and Slash, reuniting again last year. They too are currently on a UK European tour and if you wanted to see them then you could have wandered down to The Assembly where they played in front of less than 160 people.

Fate can definitely be cruel and you have to wonder if Tracii Guns ever wondered what could have been if he hadn’t fell out with Axl 30 years ago. But, if he does, he doesn’t show it in front of the sparse crowd on this occasion.

In fact, the band put on a solid and professional performance that goes down well by the fans in attendance.

The band, wisely, stick to the early albums for most of the set – their self-titled debut providing almost half of the main set alone – from openers ‘No Mercy’ and ‘Electric Gypsy’ though ‘Sex Action’, ‘Bitch is Back’ and more.

Lewis and Guns look to be enjoying themselves and put on an energetic performance that has sections of the crowd head-banging or singing along all night. Lewis in particular interacts and chats with the fans at the front in a colloquial and friendly manner.

During encore track ‘The Ballad of Jayne’ he even hands the mic to fans in the front row to sing along – kudos to the first two of the singers for pretty good performances that leaves the band impressed. However, the third audience member given the chance to shine probably only deserves praise for his enthusiasm, if not his voice, and his heroic level of drunkenness. 

The band finish their set with a boisterous ‘Rip and Tear’ from their second album ‘Cocked And Loaded’ before leaving the stage and on to the next gig of their reunion.

Whether there are more in attendance than in Aberdeen remains to be seen but those diehard fans who do attend will appreciate what they witnessed on stage.

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Apr 202017
 

Young fans pack The Garage out for a triple bill of rock. Review and photos by Craig Chisholm.

The Garage on Windmill Brae was the place to be for rock fans where they were treated to a triple bill of British rock bands as part of their extensive UK tour.

First up, at the very un-rock n’ roll time of 7:15pm are Scottish rockers Fatherson.

The band are no strangers to Aberdeen having played The Lemon Tree, The Garage and, most recently, Café Drummonds at Christmas time.

Their folky rock is similar to fellow Kilmarnock band Biffy Clyro with shades of Frightened Rabbit thrown in for good measure.

Despite the line of people that are still queued up outside the venue there are diehard fans pressed hard against the barrier and already a good crowd have filled the dance floor to see the band.

Their short seven song set is over in a flash and leaves the crowd wanting more. In all honesty, bottom band on the bill does them a disservice – a recent headline performance at Glasgow’s iconic Barrowland’s Ballroom show they are capable of bigger things.

However, there’s no time to mourn Fatherson’s short set time as Cambridge band Lonely The Brave are next up after the briefest of switch overs.

The band are an altogether heavier proposition than the openers whilst still retaining a stadium rock commerciality to it.

The five piece are tight and heavy throughout their set which, again goes down a storm with the packed venue’s crowd.

Vocalist David Jakes is actually the least animated of the band – he stands to the rear clutching his mic stand for dear life whilst spitting the lyrics out to each song.

Between songs, however, the hardcore image is slightly punctured as he fills a mug from a kettle he has sitting in front of the drums. It’s an unusual sight and provides a bit of light relief to the bands otherwise hard sound.

Headliners Mallory Knox take their name from Juliette Lewis’ character in Natural Born Killers – however their sound isn’t as hard, or indeed downright violent, as the character in question. Instead they provide a hook laden, hard rock that appeals to their legions of fans.

By this point, the barrier has a high number of young females pressed against it and they sing along to every word of every song and cling to each bit of between song banter from frontman Mikey Chapman.

Their latest album, ‘Wired’, released only a week or so earlier, provides a fair chunk of the set –  from opener ‘Giving It Up’ to the final encore track ‘Better Off Without You’. Despite the album being out for only being out for 10 days the young crowd are familiar with the tracks and receive each rapturously as if they’d known them their whole lives.

Overall the three bands provide an entertaining, lively and good value for money night that will have left the crowd satisfied on their way home and probably wanting even more.

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Apr 112017
 

The Men in Black play a sold-out gig at The Beach Ballroom on their “The Classic Collection” tour. Review and photographs by Craig Chisholm. 

Original member Dave Greenfield is still there as well – hidden somewhere behind a bank of keyboards at the back of the stage

The Stranglers have been recording and touring for about 40 years now but they still provide an enthralling and entertaining show despite the years. The names and faces may change – original drummer Jet Black has stopped touring due to ill health and Baz Warne has only been the lead singer for the last decade – but the songs remain and the performances are still as lively and energetic as they were back in the 70s.

With 17 albums in their back catalogue, the band are not short of a choice of what to perform.

The 22 song set will have left the fans happy though and there can’t have been anyone too upset with what they play on the night.

First up, however, are fellow punk veterans Ruts DC.

Their ten song set includes punk classics ‘Babylon’s Burning’ and ‘Staring at The Rude Boys’ both of which are received ecstatically by the crowd.

Their brand of reggae influenced punk rock proves to be enduring and timeless and still stands up four decades after it was first performed.
Despite the crowd appreciating the special guests there’s no doubt that they’re here to see the main event though.

Hitting the stage at 9pm to the taped intro of ‘Waltzinblack’  The Stranglers blast through a 90 minute set filled with the hits, album tracks and the occasional deep cut.

Vocals are mainly handled by the aforementioned Baz Warne.

The amiable Geordie provides an ample replacement for original vocalist Hugh Cornwell and his subsequent replacement Paul Roberts.

Bassist JJ Burnell must have a Dorian Gray style painting of himself hidden in the attic as he still looks as young and as fit as he did years ago.

The hair may have traces of grey in it but, clad head to toe in black, he still cuts an imposing figure with a bass sound that rattles the pit of your stomach at times.

His rasping vocals on cuts such as ‘(Get a) Grip (On Yourself)’ and opener ‘The Raven’ among other have a rawness and punkiness about them that has the Ballroom’s sprung dancefloor working overtime to accommodate the rowdy crowd.

Original member Dave Greenfield is still there as well – hidden somewhere behind a bank of keyboards at the back of the stage. His organ sound is a big part of The Stranglers sound and provides a pop sheen to the punk chaos.

The set is sprinkled with hits that even a non-fan would know – such as the balladic ‘Always The Sun’, the classic ‘Golden Brown’ and the cheeky, bass heavy romp of ‘Peaches’.

After a blistering 20 song main set, the band return for an encore with ‘Go Buddy Go’ – the b-side of 1977’s ‘Peaches’ single –  before finishing with genuine classic track ‘No More Heroes’.

As the crowd head off out to the blustery North Sea wind, you’re left thinking that The Stranglers are wrong in one respect.

There are still some heroes; not all of them wear capes though – some wear black.

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Apr 112017
 

With thanks to Matthew Duncan.

A musical extravaganza is set to take place to pay tribute to a brave North-east youngster.

Sam Dorrance of Stonehaven had just started Dunnottar Primary School in August 2015 when he was diagnosed with a brain tumour.

Sam battled bravely for 11 months but sadly passed away last July.

A tribute event has now been planned to play some of Sam’s favourite songs and raise money for Super Sam’s Fund for the Brain Tumour Charity.

The show will take place at Stonehaven’s Station Hotel on Friday 12th May where award winning Aberdeen country band The Malpaso Gang will be joined onstage by Sam’s dad, Graeme Dorrance.

Graeme said:

“Sam loved music and these songs were a big part of his life. This show is an opportunity for us to play some of his favourites and raise money for the Brain Tumour Charity in the process.”

Tickets for the show are available now, costing £15 (including food) with all funds raised going to Super Sam’s Fund for the Brain Tumour Charity

For ticket info email Graeme.dorrance@me.com

Apr 012017
 

A guitar once owned by Hendrix has been put up for auction in Aberdeen, following a council hunt for heirs. Duncan Harley reports.

When council housing officer Dennis Potter was called to the home of a council tenant on Aberdeen’s Kincorth Housing Estate he thought that it would be simply a routine house clearance.

The elderly male who had lived there for over 30 years had passed away and, with no relatives on hand to see to his affairs, it fell to the council to clear the flat and prepare it for a new tenant.

“I was pleasantly surprised” said Dennis “to find that the place was clean and in good order.”

“It’s not unusual for us to enter a property where someone has died and find that they had perhaps not been coping during what may have been a difficult end of life period. But, in this case that was definitely not the case and our tenant had taken really good care of the property.”

Initially, the council had assumed that relatives would come forward to claim possessions and see to the estate, but after a three-year hunt for heirs no-one came forward.

“We knew that Mr Brown had no surviving friends in the locality” said Dennis “but we thought that maybe he had relatives somewhere who might have kept in touch.”

“But as his birthdays came and went, there were no cards, and even at Christmas the deceased only received a few begging letters from the likes of the Salvation Army and a charity specialising in promoting paintings made by limbless artists from North Korea.”

Eventually council bosses asked Dennis to dispose of the few possessions left by the tenant and an Aberdeen auction firm was asked to provide a valuation.

“We needed to cover the costs involved” says Dennis.

“There was a very small amount of outstanding rent, but on top of that there was the matter of the burial; and we felt we had a duty to recover what we could to protect the public purse.”

The valuation, however, far exceeded expectations, for in amongst the few possessions left by Mr Brown there was a guitar.

“I had assumed that it might be worth just a few pounds” said Dennis.

“I mean, it was badly scratched, the frets looked worn and the strings had seen better days. But you never know at auction since maybe someone is looking to get a real bargain.”

The auctioneers were initially unimpressed with the item and consigned it to the weekly general sale in expectation that it might be worth something to someone willing to restore the neglected instrument. However, and quite by chance, musicologist Jim Hawsworthy came to preview the lots for sale.

“I couldn’t believe my eyes” he said “at first I thought I was dreaming, but there right in front of me was a genuine Strattofaster!”

“I mean these instruments are the Stradivariuses of the guitar world. There are probably only around fourteen known examples worldwide, and this one is completely genuine.”

Seemingly Jimi Hendrix owned two of these instruments, but after his death aged 27 in September 1970, it emerged that one was unaccounted for.

In a strange twist, it transpired that Mr Brown had been drinking red wine with Marmalade stars Gary Farr and Jimmy Cregan, together with Eric Clapton at the Scotch of St James bar in Mayfair on the night of Hendrix’s death.

“When Jimi came in” said Clapton “he had no dosh and neither had the rest of us.”

“So we asked Bennie the roadie to bung us a few quid – just to keep the party going you understand. By that time the bar bill was astronomical and to be honest we were all a bit keen to get more wasted, so to calm Bennie Brown down, I suggested that we bung him a guitar as collateral. That’s how it all happened really. He was pleased as punch and went off strumming Jimi’s guitar.

“I know that ‘cause I was there. Or at least I think I was. That is until I awoke to find that Jimi had, well you know – gone off somewhere and died basically. Never forget that night really. What year is it today anyway?”

Be that as it may, the auction of the Hendrix Strattofaster takes place at Aberdeen Auction House on East Silver Street on April 1st with all proceeds going directly to the council.

The sales catalogue reads as follows:

LOT 405
FENDER STRATTOFASTER, JIMI HENDRIX SIGNATURE MODEL, 1967
Serial number CZ510969, maple tarnished finish, maple neck with skunk-stripe routing, red paper dot on back of headstock beside “Sandy Klaus Fender Custom Shop” transfer, twenty-two fret fingerboard with dot inlays, three pre-Vintage Noiseless pickups, three rotary controls, selector switch, tremolo/bridge tail block and white pick guard; and a black Harry Fender hard-shell bright-contour case with black plush lining and cream cloth sticker inscribed in hazy purple felt pen “Good luck Jimi from your good old pals Otis, Eric and Shanker” and tie on paper label inscribed on both sides in black felt pen “FENDER STRAT CZ510969 MAPLE  1”, one red and one green paper dot on two case latches.”

A reserve price of £2,500 has been placed on the item and international interest is expected.

Words and images © Duncan Harley
Additional reporting by April McGinty

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Mar 102017
 

Organisers of Celebrate Aberdeen are aiming to hold their largest ever parade in the city this year and are urging a range of new groups to sign up for the weekend event. With thanks to Ross Anderson, Senior Account Manager, Citrus:Mix

As well as local third sector organisations, social enterprises and voluntary groups, musicians and city sports groups have been invited to take part in the event which will be held on Saturday, August 26 and Sunday, August 27, alongside the Great Aberdeen Run.

More than 70 third sector organisations have already ensured their place in the celebratory parade since the date was announced last month, but organisers are urging others to ensure they don’t miss their chance to take part.

The parade was first held in 2011 and has brought together more than 3,500 people from 130 diverse third sector organisations for each event in recent years. The cut off-date for third sector registration is Friday, April 28.

Morven Mackenzie, director of event management company 46 Degrees, and the leading force behind Celebrate Aberdeen, said:

“Preparations are well underway for this year’s event already which we hope will be the biggest and best yet. To ensure that it is, we need as many third sector groups, sports groups and musicians as possible, so I would urge them all to sign up soon.

“The organisations that are on board already are truly remarkable in the work they carry out, and being able to offer them an opportunity to celebrate and gather support is great. We are delighted to have another parade this year as well as a range of activities and performances throughout the weekend, which will be fun for all the family.”

The Lord Provost of Aberdeen, councillor George Adam, said:

“Celebrate Aberdeen is a fantastic event, which provides an excellent platform for local third sector organisations and clubs to be seen and to promote their work in a carnival atmosphere. 

“The city has many third sector organisations, which provide first-rate services because of the dedication of their volunteers. With the event being held alongside the Great Aberdeen Run the whole Celebrate Aberdeen weekend is guaranteed to be entertaining, informative and fun so I would encourage organisations to sign up as soon as possible.”

Third sector organisations wishing to take part in the Celebrate Aberdeen weekend can sign-up at: www.celebrateaberdeen.org

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Mar 022017
 

David Innes reviews ‘The Wren and The Salt Air’ – a new E.P. release by Jenny Sturgeon on Fit Like Records.

In September 2016, commissioned by The National Trust for Scotland, Donside’s own Jenny Sturgeon visited the abandoned North Atlantic Hebridean archipelago, St Kilda, to derive inspiration for a musical release to commemorate this wilderness’s thirtieth anniversary as a World Heritage site.

The Wren and The Salt Air, a four-track EP, inspired by the island’s bird life and history, is the impressive result.

Maintaining the distinctive writing and performance style of recent release From The Skein, Ms Sturgeon imbues haunting Celtic melodies with her trademark natural imagery and unobtrusive, custom-fitted arrangements.

‘Seabird’ is a word painting describing the majestic movement of the colony’s thousands of birds in flight, and at rest, in almost architectural terms, and the title track takes on the vibe of an ancient folk tale, as the juxtaposition of unforgiving weather and the frailty of a tiny St Kilda Wren paints a vivid picture of the stoicism of living creatures “where salt air pinches skin”.  

The bird life of St Kilda assumes co-billing with Jenny, Jonny Hardie and Pete McCallum, to the extent that on the final segment of ‘St Kilda Set’, after some fine, evocative blue-edged Hardie fiddle-led tunes, the local Kittiwake and Leach’s Petrel are given a featured ninety-second solo spot. The St Kilda Wren’s urgent song too, provides unusual but fitting counterpoint to the melody of ‘The Wren and The Salt Air’

With 10% of the profits of the CD sales going to support conservation work on St Kilda, The Wren and The Salt Air is even more worthy of your small investment.

JENNY STURGEON
The Wren and The Salt Air
Fit Like Records

This review was originally posted on the reviewer’s own website www.bluesandmoreagain.com where the old fool gamely attempts to be some sort of tastemaker.

 Links:

www.jennysturgeonmusic.com
www.fitlikerecords.com
www.nts.org.uk/seabirds

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Feb 202017
 

Fun Lovin’ Criminals provide an entertaining and engaging live show.

Fun Lovin’ Criminals brought some New York cool to The Garage in Aberdeen on a Friday night in February. Craig Chisholm reviews.

Wandering nonchalantly onstage with a drink in hand, frontman Huey Morgan toasted the crowd before he and the band – multi-instrumentalist Brian “Fast” Leiser and Leicester born drummer Frank Benbibni – launched into an 18 song set that covered their near 35 year career.

For such a quintessential New York band it’s ironic that their commercial breakthrough and subsequent peak came at the height of Britpop in the mid to late 90s and their song choice reflects this with a set heavy on tracks from debut album ‘Come Find Yourself’.

Opening with funky trumpet led track ‘The Fun Lovin’ Criminal’ the band blast through crowd pleasers such as the laid back ‘Smoke ‘Em’, the full on rock of ‘Bombin’ The L’ and, undoubted highlight of the night, the Tarantino movie dialogue sampling ‘Scooby Snacks’.

Tracks such as those highlight why the band became so popular at the time – the eclectic mix of hip-hop, rock, blues and soul delivered with a knowing nod and a wink draw their audience in and keep them enthralled throughout the night.

If any criticisms can be levelled at the group it would be that their later material doesn’t have the spark and imagination of their earlier work.

Later tracks from their most recent album ‘Classic Fantastic’ – released 7 years ago now! – such as the title track and ‘We, The Three’ aren’t met with such enthusiasm and recognition as cuts such as the Barry White referencing ‘Love Unlimited’.

Despite that, the band still keep the crowd on entertained for almost two hours.

Singer Huey may be better known nowadays as a Radio 6 presenter and TV host in the, thankfully, short lived series ‘Pet Nation’ he bizarrely hosted with Liza Tarbuck but it’s on stage that he’s at home.

His between song banter is entertaining and humorous – tall tales about hotel maids and of meetings with Mafia Boss John Gotti Jr to discuss the song ‘King Of New York’, which references his notorious Father, are all delivered with friendliness and laughs.

Closing their main set with a cover of James Bond theme song ‘We Have All The Time In The World’ the band return for a three song encore that includes ‘Friday Night’ performed exclusively for the fact that it is, indeed, Friday night.

At the end of the day, Fun Lovin’ Criminals may not be as commercially successful or as prolific with new material as they once were but they still provide an entertaining and engaging live show that will leave you with a smile on your face.

Pictures © Craig Chisholm.

Feb 022017
 

Scottish soprano Jillian Bain Christie

With thanks to Ian McLaren, PR account manager, Innes Associates.

A specially arranged version of a classic Robert Burns love song received its Burns Night debut in Aberdeen.
Local soprano Jillian Bain Christie treated guests at Malmaison Aberdeen’s annual Burns Supper to a version of Ae Fond Kiss that has been specially written for her by renowned north-east composer Professor Paul Mealor FRSA.

The song forms part of Jillian’s debut album, Ae Spark o’ Nature’s Fire, a compilation of 14 works penned by Scotland’s national bard, including some of his best-known love songs.

Jillian, who as well as being an acclaimed singer is also a talented visual artist, was taught by Professor Mealor while studying for a music degree at the University of Aberdeen and also sang the soprano solo in his Symphony No 1: Passiontide

To thank Jillian for her involvement in some of his previous musical projects he chose to compose this arrangement of Burns’ most recorded love song to appear on her first album.

Professor Mealor is an admired composer whose works include Ubi Caritas, which premiered at the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and the 2011 Christmas number one hit Wherever You Are, which was performed by the Military Wives choir.

Ae Spark o’ Nature’s Fire was released last year by independent Aberdeen record label Luckenbooth Music. The album, which also features pianist Catherine Herriott, is a collection of Burns songs that are sung to arrangements by contemporary and 20th century Scottish composers including Rory Boyle and John Maxwell Geddes.

Tracks include Ye Banks and Braes o’ Bonnie Doon, The Deil’s awa’ wi’ the Exciseman and Bonnie Wee Thing. Alongside the specially arranged version of Ae Fond Kiss, other highlights of the album include unaccompanied versions of A Red, Red Rose and John Anderson, My Jo.

Frances Milne, co-founder of Luckenbooth Music, said:

“Robert Burns is revered around the world and many of his songs have achieved iconic status.  Ae Spark o’ Nature’s Fire presents 14 of his songs in a refreshed and new way, providing an album that appeals to fans of both traditional Scottish and classical music

“This new version of Ae Fond Kiss is a beautiful arrangement that illustrates the skill of composer, singer and pianist.  Those attending the Burns Supper at Malmaison will be left in no doubt about the brilliance of Paul Mealor’s arrangement and Jillian’s recital of it.

“Jillian’s unaccompanied, pared-back version of A Red, Red Rose showcases her vocal ability.  The melody was originally written as a fiddle tune and features great leaps in range, which are normally technically difficult for the voice.  However, Jillian’s trained voice copes with the melody with ease.  It is one of the stunning highlight of the album.”

Ae Spark o’ Nature’s Fire is on sale now and can be purchased directly from Luckenbooth Music and Amazon, in selected retailers, or as a download via iTunes and Google Play.  Notes accompanying the CD give a comprehensive insight into Burns as a songwriter and song collector, while a glossary provides an understanding to the many Scots words used in the songs.

Born and raised in Aberdeen, Jillian Bain Christie studied fine print making at Glasgow School of Art, before gaining a masters degree in illustration at Edinburgh College of Art. The former Mile End Primary and Aberdeen Grammar pupil worked as an artist for a number of years before embarking on a music degree at the University of Aberdeen, graduating in 2012 with a first-class honours degree. 

She then studied in London at the Trinity London Conservatoire of Music and Dance, gaining a masters degree in fine art in creative performance practice.

Luckenbooth Music is an independent Scottish record label. Based in Aberdeen, it was established in 2016 by Frances Milne and her brother John Milne. The label’s first release was Ae Spark o’ Nature’s Fire, a collection of songs by Robert Burns which were performed by Aberdeen soprano Jillian Bain Christie and accompanied by pianist Catherine Herriott. 

A luckenbooth is a traditional Scottish wedding brooch given to a bride by her groom on their wedding day. For more information visit www.luckenboothmusic.co.uk or telephone 01224 311468.

A preview of the tracks can be listened to via SoundCloud by visiting https://soundcloud.com/luckenbooth-music

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Jan 272017
 

With thanks to James Soars Media Services. 

“An epidemic is sweeping the world: an epidemic of loneliness. Never before have we, the supremely social mammal, been so isolated. The results are devastating: a collapse of common purpose, the replacement of civic life with a fug of consumerism, insecurity and alienation. We cannot carry on like this.” – George Monbiot

So how do we respond to this trend towards social breakdown?

Breaking The Spell of Loneliness is a remarkable collaboration between writer George Monbiot and musician Ewan McLennan.

They launched their project because they believe that nothing has greater potential to unite and delight than music. They seek to use the music to open up the issue of loneliness, and their performances to help address it.

The project began with an article that the journalist George Monbiot wrote in the Guardian, about the age of loneliness. The article went viral, and several publishers asked him to write books about it. But George had a different idea.

He approached Ewan McLennan – a musician whose work he greatly admired – and proposed a collaboration. Together they would write an album, a mixture of ballads and anthems, some sad, some stirring, whose aim was to try to break the spell that appears to have been cast upon us; the spell of separation.

It would touch upon issues as varied as our relationship with nature, our capacity for altruism and co-operation, the politics that lie behind loneliness, and the ways people are together overcoming this social scourge.

Around the time of the album’s release George and Ewan will perform a small number of special concerts. George will narrate the show, describe the ideas behind the songs, and encourage members of the audience to engage with each other, both then and beyond the concert. Ewan will sing the songs and perform the music that has emerged from this innovative collaboration.

Tour dates:

2 February Eden Court, Inverness
3 February Celtic Connections, Glasgow
4 February The Reid Concert Hall, Edinburgh
5 February The Blue Lamp, Aberdeen
8 February MAC, Birmingham
11 February Aberystwyth Arts Centre

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