The programme for Friday evening held promise of four heavyweight acts, two local and two visiting, a huge line-up by any standard for Scalloway Public Hall and sure to attract a sell-out crowd in such a music-loving area.
As it was The Sheila Henderson Band opened to a sparsely-filled hall, distinctly not in keeping with the quality of their set as such a line-up of talented musicians really does deserve a bigger crowd with Sheila joined by Brian Nicholson on guitar, Ivor “Fred” Polson on bass and Archer Kemp on drums.
To suit the occasion the band offered an entirely appropriate set with hints of country and a good solid element of rock, and their performance was in no ways subdued in a fairly empty and brightly-lit venue. The first couple of cover songs led to one of Sheila’s own powerful compositions and then a more mellow tune with the full line-up delivering fine vocal harmonies. Brian also took his turn at vocals in an up-tempo piece and the band rounded off their set with a dedication to those travelling for the event.
Despite the established reputation Sheila has as a singer/songwriter, it would be unfair not to praise her colossal vocal ability and her top-class band.
Next up was one of the longest-serving bands in Shetland today in the form of the Ramstams. Fronted by singer James Nicolson with Brian Nicolson and Tommy Allan on guitars, Bryan Peterson on bass and Archer Kemp on drums, their set was a wide spectrum of past crowd pleasers, all delivered well.
Where they really succeeded was in bringing the crowd to life, with a great response and an active dance floor relatively early in the evening, something any band can be proud of.
More seats filled as the evening drew on and the audience were well and truly warmed by the time Edinburgh-based band the Offenders exploded on to the stage. Stylishly attired all in black with white ties, their stage presence was confident and endearing before they had played a note.
They opened with a highly energised avalanche of rocking rhythm and bluesy sound with screaming harmonica to suit. Their set led the audience on a very palatable road map through various blues-related styles, bringing funk, jazz, swing and rock to the stage with seamless dynamism.
Front man Dennis Westerburgh switched from suave vocals to harmonica to saxophone throughout the set, showing charisma, style and great energy in each. Drummer Cat Myers is already a familiar face in Shetland as she has been here before with Little Green Machine and her talented, focused and aggressive drumming style is certainly captivating and unforgettable.
Mert Pearson has all the hall marks of a classic talented bass man, fingering his way through complex runs and riffs seemingly without effort, while obviously enjoying himself greatly and without undue theatricals.
Guitarist Dave Wallace is similarly talented, causing the interested viewer to require reminding of the skill on show as he performs with a cool, understated and commanding presence. The band combined were a pleasure to watch, highly entertaining, charming, dynamic, refined and obviously very much in their element on stage.
Headline act King King inherited an audience already very much enthused with their predecessors and succeeded in bringing their own style to the crowd to complement those which had gone before.
Front man Alan Nimmo’s dramatic and impassioned style of playing and singing was appropriately theatrical and expressive with wild and long-lasting guitar solos that any rock or rhythm and blues guitarist would envy.
Though he has an excellent voice for this style of music, he is definitely a soloist who can let his guitar do the talking. His exuberant style was fully shared by Bennett Holland on keyboards, providing highly animated and soulful Hammond organ and piano style bluesy accompaniment, fills and solos, another performer who quite obviously enjoys his trade.
Nimmo engaged the willing audience in accompaniment for their soulful sing-along <i>Feels Like Rain</i> and then went on to a well-earned encore. That brought forth a piece of innovative showmanship in the breaking down of a song
until even lead guitar was heard purely acoustically, to a transfixed audience in a pin-dropping silence, before building to a suitably dramatic crescendo, with some lightsome funk to round the night off.
The only question that endured from a night of such all round and skilled musical entertainment in a village with a long history of appreciation of rock, country and rhythm and blues, is why was the event was not a sell-out? It certainly deserved to be.
A sunlit snug in the side of the Kiln Bar on Sunday provided a compact, but lightsome setting for the Offenders to offer up a dressed down, relaxed and feel-good afternoon’s entertainment.
The band played two lengthy sets that featured a mix of songs previously aired over the weekend with various others added and some orderly and quirky jamming that the band obviously enjoyed performing. Once again throwing in funk, blues, soulful, swing and shuffle via vocals, sax, harmonica, guitar, bass and drums, in this setting they served as a pub band at the upper end of the scale, enjoying themselves, putting in lengthy service and remaining professional throughout.
It was even notable that their volume, tailored to suit the venue, was not oppressively loud, while still allowing them to deliver a punchy and hard-hitting sound when the tune suited and three-part vocal harmonies were laid on with all the composure of a big venue gig.
It would be impossible to pick out individual tunes for praise from the abundance or riches provided, but their funk rendition of 2001 come Star Wars brought a smile to the face and sticks in the mind and the annoyingly catchy Offender Shuffle.