THE HOTTEST ticket in town over the festive season was undoubtedly for the Pete Stack and the Rayburns reunion at the Lerwick Legion on 27th December.
The eagerly-anticipated gig sold out over a week beforehand and the Shetland Blues Festival organisers said they could easily have sold out a second night.
The venue filled remarkably quickly with expectant punters. Usually there are a steady trickle of folk making their way from the Marlex throughout the night, but by the time the first band went on the Legion was heaving.
The evening kicked off with the Ramstams, another band who haven’t played together for a number of years. The rocked their way through a set of country and blues numbers, with singer James “Barny” Nicolson obviously delighted to be back on stage after the hiatus.
Next up were Yell veterans No Sweat, who kept the crowd happy with their own brand of rocked up blues.
But the evening undoubtedly belonged to the headliners. Mr Stack and his Rayburns, decked out in their familiar black suits and ties like the Shetland music Mafioso, entered the building to a welcome of backslaps and hand shakes from the assembled well wishers before making their way to the stage.
They immediately launched into a breathless chunk of soul, ska and funk classics, blasting their way through the first five tunes without a break. From the off frontman Stephen “Smirk” Gordon gyrated, flailed and grunted like a soul man possessed.
The band were as tight as a snare drum, and Davie Robertson dependably swung his way through the set on his faithful old kit. Resplendent in a red fez, Lol Jamieson was bang on the money with his signature biting basslines and Tommy Allan, despite a touch of the man flu, delivered his trademark soul chop on guitar with typical cool composure.
I’ve always been a sucker for horn sections and The Brass Monkeys, comprising Roy Hughson on trumpet, Helen Tait on sax and Davie Thomson on trombone, kept a smile on my face with their funky arrangements and sharp delivery.
But it was hard to take your eyes off Smirk, undoubtedly Shetland’s most colourful frontman. His natural showmanship and gregarious personality ensured the crowd’s attention was held stageward.
The dance floor was heaving from beginning to end of their one-and-a-half-hour set, with overspills of punters boogieing in the isles and queue for the bar. The end of their show was greeted with whoops for more from the assemblage, and the Rayburns returned to the stage with blistering renditions of Born to be Wild and Hold on, I’m Comin’ before taking their bows and thanking the throng.
Special mention must go to Stevie Hook who ably kept things acoustically clean, tidy and punchy. However, as is an intrinsic problem with the Legion, the lack of lights in front of the stage meant the gig wasn’t visually what it could have been, with the performers lit in silhouette from the sides.
It’s hard to believe it was six years since Pete Stack and the Rayburns had appeared on stage together. So long in fact that Smirk told me he had had to go round the charity shops looking for a copy of Pete Stack’s CD to re-learn the songs. When I asked him if there were any more gigs in the pipeline, Smirk inscrutably replied: “Is there oil west of Shetland?” Make of that what you will.