Honest rockers show quality but shame about the turnout

Mancunian rockers Proud Mary returned to Shetland for a second visit last weekend to play two spirited and high quality gigs.

Though they have never quite hit the commercial heights, the group – named after a Creedence Clearwater Revival song of the same name – have a pretty decent pedigree, having supported major acts including Neil Young, Ryan Adams, The Black Crowes, Oasis and Paul Weller.

Having performed at the Northern Lights in Brae on Saturday night, sadly Proud Mary could only draw an audience of 50-odd punters at the Legion in Lerwick on Sunday. Two days earlier an X Factor winner managed to sell out the main hall at Clickimin within minutes.

But those who did fight their way through the driving wind and rain to get to the Legion witnessed a very enjoyable evening of music, courtesy of promoters A Northern Soul. Following sets by local bands First Foot Soldiers and North Country Fair, Proud Mary frontman Greg Griffin took to the stage and launched into the doughty All Good Things, drawn from the band’s 2001 debut Same Old Blues.

Griffin told the assembled few of how the band had been treated to a breakfast of kippers, tatties and red wine by their host, a well-known local fisherman and erstwhile Shetland centre-forward, that morning. The odd culinary combination certainly had not done Griffin’s powerful, husky voice any harm as he hollered through songs drawn from all three of the band’s albums in a buoyant, well-received hour-long set.

A decade has now passed since Proud Mary became the first group signed to Noel Gallagher’s Sour Mash record label, patronage which was perhaps something of a mixed blessing. After parting company with the label they released a second LP, Love and Light, in 2004 to a muted response before going on hiatus.

Since getting back together the band haven’t exactly reinvented the wheel, but their bluesy white boy rock sound – always strongly influenced by late 60s/early 70s-era Rolling Stones – has taken on added Americana inflections. That was apparent on soulful selections from last year’s Ocean Park album, the pick of which was Dust and Diamonds.

Kitted out in precisely the sort of clobber you’d expect from a post-Oasis indie band from the north of England, they are an extremely tight live act. Drummer Paul Fuller pounded the skins with power and gusto. Good-time boogie Blues, in particular, had a fair few souls dancing and could almost have been an outtake from Exile On Main Street.

One or two guitar solos owed more to Gallagher senior than to Keith Richards, and there were a couple of dreich numbers which plodded along a bit when they ought to have soared. But for the most part Griffin’s gravelly voice, by turns world-weary and uplifting, managed to elevate proceedings.

The winding melodic shuffle of the folk-tinged title track from Same Old Blues and the anthemic Mexico were further highlights, before the band concluded their initial set with a tremendous cover of the Stones’ 1968 paean to the working classes, Salt Of The Earth.

The band then returned to the stage to reel off early single Very Best Friend and a faithful rendering of Neil Young’s classic workout Cortez The Killer, rounding off a wholesome night of grittily honest rock music.

Neil Riddell


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