The Bashies rocked Mareel at the launch of their debut album Too Late Now on Saturday.
No doubt the up-tempo seven-piece would have liked to have been able to say the same to prospective ticket buyers, but the 200-odd sold for Saturday’s gig was a reasonable turnout for the cabaret –style format chosen for the gig.
Arthur Nicholson, facing the daunting task of warming up the Mareel audience on his lonesome, handled the occasion with the aplomb you would expect of one of Shetland’s most accomplished singer-songwriters. Nicholson played a mixture of material from his acclaimed album Sticks and Stones, such as Call it as You See and new numbers including Voice of Reason, currently getting airplay on SIBC.
Local blues outfit Sore Finger then played a crisp, polished and eclectic set of blues, funk and rock, for which they have become familiar playing gigs at the Folk Festival and the Blues Festival as well as Glustonberry.
The sound, as you would expect from the highly-regarded Mareel sound-desk, was crisp, clear and not overly loud, though between song talk was as easily deciphered as a Hong-Kong airport tannoy announcement – or maybe the reviewer is just going deaf.
The Bashies kicked-off with a string of covers, playing solid versions of classics like Don’t Stop, Sweet Home Alabama, Stuck in the Middle with You and Rock’n Me. Perhaps this might have seemed a conservative approach instead of leading with their own, newly released, material, but with many excellent and long-established local musicians in the band, there is no doubting the quality the Bashies can bring to the stage.
As well as Isbister, who has been performing in public from a tender age, the band can call on the vocal excellence of Gemma Anderson, taking the lead part for many of the songs, Archer Kemp on drums (Kemp was also on the sticks with Sore Finger), Dave Sjoberg on bass and a guitar triumvirate of Edwin and Ross Irvine and Peter Kay – well suited to the likes of the guitar-heavy Skynyrd covers.
The Bashies’ own numbers, when they played them, were of a punk-inflected pop which was somewhat at odds with the style of most of the covers they played. But what’s wrong with diversity? Apparently nothing, judging by the reaction of the Mareel crowd, who were quickly on their feet and filling the available dance space by the end of the night.
One of the Bashies’ own tunes (sorry, I don’t know the name) had a wistful power reminiscent of The Screaming Trees’ Dollar Bill, one of the most heart-wrenching songs ever committed to vinyl.
Kay proved his versatility by providing near-perfect vocals on Johnny Cash number Fulsom Prison Blues, a track that has become a Shetland legend since featuring in the 2005 movie Walk the Line. Kay also provided probably the highlight of the night by picking up the fiddle to completely outstrip Slash’s guitar solo with his own version on the Guns N’ Roses classic Sweet Child O’ Mine.
A fan of the iconic Dolly Parton number Nine to Five shudderingly said: “No-one should do a cover of that song”. The Bashies made a credible stab at it, producing a more rocked-up version of the original.
The Bashies managed to fill almost two-hours with their excellent covers and own-penned material, one of which was humourously titled White Van Man. Of note was a version of Blondie’s One Way or Another, which had the crowd in raptures. Many more covers from Status Quo’s Down Down to the up-beat set-closer Proud Mary, were to follow.
While the gig ended on a high, a familiar Mareel gripe was evident from the beginning. More than one punter complained with utter exasperation of the 25-minute bar queue. Of course this is nothing to the busy nights at Mareel where paying punters in the queue have waited 50 minutes or more, but for a gig that barely filled one-third of the auditorium capacity wise, the question must be asked why has the
Mareel management not sorted a problem that has dogged the venue since its opening? The joke is long over. Where were the pop-up bars or the simple solution of a bar inside the auditorium?