By Jennie Macfie
A fanfare of horns announces the presence of Roddy Hart and the Lonesome Fire, all ten of ’em, launching straight into The Band’s Stagefright; as Hart adds, afterwards, a most appropriate choice for the moment.
There’s a touch of lese majeste about playing this in front of Amy, daughter of Levon Helm – but it must be OK as she soon joins him. Her voice has terrific power and range, sounding at times not unlike a young Aretha Franklin, at others more like Emmylou Harris.
The trio Lau deliver a socking punch with their own Save the Bees – “Wow!” comes an American voice from the row behind – and a rendition of Helm’s Unfaithful Servant which is true both to the original and themselves.
The never-ending stream of good things with which the evening is full continues with Wisconsin’s Adriel Harris and Cory Chisel, The latter is not the only singer of the night to be channelling Bob Dylan (whose backing musicans, of course, later became The Band), and in Chisel’s case it’s very early Dylan. Frightened Rabbit’s Scott Hutchison, Rachel Sermanni, Low Anthem’s Ben Knox Miller and Peter Kelly, the artist also known as Beerjacket also take turns singing one of their own songs and a Band song of their choosing, and that’s just in the first half.
Incipient minor ‘technical problems’ during the first half, probably inevitable with the myriad mikes and pickups and scant sound check time, are sorted during the break but after launching into a stunning Up On Cripple Creek, the unexpected collapse of a keyboard stand and the swift intervention of the stage crew elicits applause. “
It’s all just like the Midnight Ramble”, says Amy Helm, unfazed.
More guests appear – Ireland’s Gemma Hayes, then Admiral Fallow’s Louis Abbott and Kevin Brolly with a riproaring take on their “Isn’t this World Enough?”, and finally Beth Orton and Sam Amadon join in by turns. Ben Knox Miller is backed by Lau – “the Lau Anthem”, he quips – and “grown men are crying back there”, says Roddy Hart.
To finish with a flourish, everyone manages to find a space and plug in on stage (no mean feat with over two dozen musicians) for two ensemble numbers; first The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down – as righteous a noise as anyone could wish for – and then the en suite encore, The Weight, equally righteous and riotous, led by Peter Kelly. In the face of this, a standing ovation is the only appropriate response and, as one, the concert hall rises.
- Roddy Hart and The Lonesome Fire are also playing in O2 ABC on February 2 as part of Celtic Connections.