A packed Carnegie Hall heard some of the finest musicians to emerge in Shetland in recent times enthral the audience with a range of finely crafted and expertly played folk(ish) songs last night.
The Kris Drever Band and Arthur Nicholson need no introduction in Shetland. Nicholson, who has established himself playing guitar and singing in a variety of acts and as a solo artist, opened the show and then took the stage with the headliners to perform on most of their numbers.
Most of Nicholson’s performed songs are contained in his first solo album, Sticks and Stones, released in late 2013 to critical acclaim – an astonishingly long time ago now.
Nicholson opened with Voice of Reason and followed it with the excellent Call It As You See. The cosy Carnegie – a bit too packed with tables to make navigation easy – was soon filled with the warm tones of Nicholson’s vocals and acoustic guitar.
The hall staff deserve great credit for their deft table service and switching on the heating early. The well decorated hall defied the chill blast outside that saw the first sleet of the winter streaking the road on the drive north after the gig.
Nicholson followed up with more from that album including the Michael Williamson and Gordon Gibson penned classic Leaving. He rounded off with two more favourites, Part of the Frame and Go For It, to appreciative applause from the audience.
Drever, backed by Admiral Fallow frontman Louis Abbot on guitar, drums and vocals and Euan Burton on double bass, plus Nicholson on guitar while Abbot hit the sticks, of course produced a fuller sound with the deep notes of the bass adding to the hall’s warmth.
The neatly groomed Drever, who relocated to Shetland from his native Orkney a few years ago, has become as familiar to local audiences as he is on the national music scene, playing with award winning Lau as well as his own line up. The band stopped off in Shetland (also playing Bixter on Thursday night) in the midst of a tour of the UK and Ireland.
They opened with Beads and Feathers from Drever’s 2006 album Black Water, the 10th anniversary of which also saw him play Harvest Gypsies – “The Grapes of Wrath condensed into three-and-a-half minutes”, as Drever put it.
The band followed this with a few more Drever-penned numbers and the Phil and June Colclough romance The Call and the Answer which saw Abbot on the drums for the first time.
Drever combines his lyrical inventiveness and immense musical ability with a ready wit: when dapper soundman Tim Mathews glided onto stage to fix a loose kick drum mic, he quipped “Tim’ll Fix It”, then adding “you can’t say that” (these days).
After Tim had fixed it, the band came close to rocking out with the metaphysical Allegory by Guadalcanal Diary frontman Murray Attaway, which seemed to suggest that life, the universe and even the wind in the trees is an allegory.
Next, the Drever Band fired up a number penned by Kriss’s brother Duncan with Nicholson back on the Telecaster. Another song, Capernaem, was based on a 1920s poem by Edinburgh writer Lewis Spence, about the capital’s bloody history.
Drever also played his newest song, about the scuttling of the German fleet at Scapa Flow following the First World War. Written from the viewpoint of a German crewman, this thoughtful composition was well received by the capacity crowd.
Effusive thanks were given to Neil and Kelly of Ragged Wood promotions, soundman Mathews, Arthur Nicholson and the hall staff who had helped make for such a pleasant early winter’s night of entertainment.
The set was rounded off with three songs from Drever’s latest album – If Wishes Were Horses. The Shouting’s Over, The Longest Day and the album’s title track proved that the future of folk music is indeed in safe hands. And they were back for an encore of Steel and Stone, once more from Black Water.