Heidi Talbot presents Duke Special, James Yorkston & Brighde Chaimbeul at The Queen’s Hall Edinburgh tonight was the second of three events that Heidi has been invited to organise to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the venue as a centre for music and arts as part of their QH@40 programme.
The Queen’s Hall holds a special place in the hearts of many audience and performers alike and, over any year, a wide variety of music from all genres is performed there by many musicians, so it is appropriate that this evening’s show also gives a good selection of that musical diversity with the line-up of performers.
Heidi Talbot has her work cut out with these “Showcases” as not only does she have the task of organising them, but also compering the shows and performing in them too, and when, as tonight, the gremlins have got into the sound system from the opening moments of the show, it does take someone with “stage experience” to so smoothly deal with the issue while the problems are sorted out.
There is always a clear tonal quality to Heidi Talbot’s vocals that interests me no matter what the song is, and from her opening set, “If You Stay” and the very dark subject matter of “Bedlam Boys” were, as always, perfectly suited to Heidi’s emotive vocals. Also nice here to get the chance to see one of this show’s guest, and one of Scotland’s finest songwriters, Boo Hewerdine, on stage with Heidi in the first of his on-stage visits for this show.
Making a sharp contrast to Heidi’s opening set, Brìghde Chaimbeul introduced us to her love of traditional piping sounds, but not just traditional Scottish ones as we also took a trip to the pipe sounds of Bulgaria. Once again, in music, we discover cultural connections stretching back through the generations.
There are times in music when very special talents use lyrics more as flowing poetry to music, and James Yorkston is one of those special talents as he constantly blurs the lines between the two to create stories that take you in often unexpected directions. James Yorkston is a writer with the ability to make seemingly unconnected words and phrases seem like they have always belonged together. Even when performing other writers’ material (Little Musgrave), James adds his own unique identity to the song.
This curation of talent for this show by Heidi Talbot is a diverse one, and perhaps no single performer here is more diverse in their range of music than Duke Special (aka Peter Wilson) and over the many years of his performance career that diversity has led to many very distinctive works. In this set, the strengths and individualities of women took centre place in many songs with song tributes to Grace Darling (saviour of so many sailors’ lives) and Emily Dickinson (poet) amongst them.
There are no real genre definitions that you can apply to Duke Special’s music (and that is good) as in a varied set, we moved from songs of reflective wonder to vaudeville with effortless ease.
Review by Tom King