Skerryvore/Rachel Croft

Live Review | The Crescent, York | Review by Allan Wilkinson.

There was something of a joyful atmosphere at the popular York venue tonight as the audience made their way into the main concert hall at the Crescent.  It was standing room only as the sold out show began, with the young Nottingham-born singer songwriter opening for Skerryvore, with a handful of self-penned songs, each confidently delivered as the spotlight fell upon the now York-based musician. Performing one or two recent songs “I Said Wait”, “We Are”, together with her debut single “Only Dreams” (lifted from her debut album Hours Awake), Rachel’s voice was utterly enchanting from start to finish. Asking the audience what they would like for the closer, Real Thing’s “You To Me Are Everything” or George Michael’s “Careless Whisper”, the crowd settled for the latter, though both would’ve been perfectly okay with me, which brought her all too short set to an end.  Always leave your audience wanting more, they say. They wanted more.

There was a healthy demographic tonight, with both young and not so young ready to share their love of the powerhouse that is the mighty Skerryvore. The Isle of Tiree’s favourite sons have the ability to transform any dull November Monday night in rainy York into a vibrant Saturday night on Tiree, with little more than a few musical instruments, the odd kilt here and there, an attractive boy band presence and the combined energy of eight fit looking chaps, who between them, effortlessly invite people onto their feet and manage to keep them there for the best part of 90 minutes.  The band traversed their prolific repertoire tonight, from almost fifteen years of Celtic power balladry, traditional fiddle and pipe tunes to almost Floydian guitar riffs; the opening few bars of “The Rise” is reminiscent of Dave Gilmore’s funky “Another Brick Part 1” days. Powerful stuff.

After a handful of familiar songs and tunes from their impressive back catalogue, including the obligatory opener “Put Your Hands Up”, “The Rut” and “The Ginger Grouse Jigs”, the band performed some of the material from their current release, the band’s sixth album to date EVO, including “At the End of the Line”, “Hold On”, “Soraidh Slàn”, “Waiting on the Sun”, “Take My hand” and “Live Forever”. In full flight, it’s difficult to decide who to watch closely, with brothers Daniel and Martin Gillespie on Accordion and pipes/whistles/accordion respectively dominating each side of the stage, whilst guitarist and singer Alec Dalglish keeps the centre spotlight busy. Craig Espie’s assured fiddle playing is there throughout, nowhere more prominent than on “Angry Fiddler”, whilst newest member Scott Wood alternates between the pipes and a variety of whistles. Even the backline of Fraser West on drums, Jodie Bremaneson on bass and Alan Scobie on Keyboards, maintain your attention throughout the set, despite being very much out of the spotlight. With these eight diverse musicians, Skerryvore have settled on possibly their best line-up so far, with each musician knowing instinctively where they fit into the whole. Even on a stage more suited to a four-piece band, Skerryvore navigate through their own instinctive choreography without a single hitch. In lesser hands, it could’ve been carnage on a Braveheart scale.

Tonight, York was ready for Skerryvore and Skerryvore was ready for York, bringing heat and adrenaline in equal measure throughout their set, which also included such favourites as “Can You Hear Us”, “The Last Time” and a blistering “Rox Revival”, keeping even those unsteady on their feet, very much on their feet. After the band’s final encore, a stirring performance of “Crooked”, the audience raised their glasses to a much loved and much appreciated band, with an open invitation to return any time soon.