Into Music Live Review: Butler, Blake, Grant & Queen
Concert: Bernard Butler, James Grant, Norman Blake.
Support by Monica Queen
Venue: Glasgow Saint Luke’s
Date: 30 January 2022
It was a long time coming but my first concert of 2022 finally arrived on the penultimate day of January and what an absolute belter it turned out to be.
The venue of course, St. Luke’s in Glasgow’s Calton, was just ideal. The reverence that this near two hundred year old converted church commands – with its unique history and ambience – meant that this was the perfect setting for what was to follow.
First up was Monica Queen, accompanied by guitarist extraordinaire Johnny Smillie and bassist Rory McGregor, opened proceedings to a packed out crowd. The impact of Queen’s soaring vocal range was immediate, the songs given space to breathe as the acoustics took hold beautifully. Elements of alt-rock Americana blended well as the trio played tenderly and succinctly to deliver a fantastic set which included a stunning version of Orange Juice’s Dying Day.
With the crowd suitably satiated, the critically acclaimed trio of James Grant, Norman Blake and Bernard Butler took to the stage. Given their impressive combined back catalogue, there was a curiosity to see not only what they would serve up with but also if these three very different personalities would gel on stage. Well, they did that and then some. What followed was nothing short of a musical odyssey that reached dizzying heights with more than a touch of deadpan humour thrown in for good measure.
Seated in a semi-circle, the trio kicked off with the Friends Again classic State Of Art, before Norman led on ‘Songs From Northern Britain’s I Don’t Want Control Of You. Bernard was next up with the (McAlmont &) Butler track Although, with the process repeating as each artist took their turn to introduce the next song on the setlist.
Despite the concert selling out, BB&G still managed to deliver a set that came across as intimate and relaxed, which was no small feat. Part of the reason for this was the aforementioned humour. Tales of prog rock, Keith Emerson’s Nazi daggers or Butler’s recollection of his sheer terror of playing an unfamiliar song live on stage with Teenage Fanclub kept the crowd greatly amused in between songs.
Highlights included Last Ship On The River with Grant provided a virtuoso performance before a melodic Everything Flows led by Blake rang out to vociferous applause from the crowd. Butler even introduced early Suede favourite, The Wild Ones which was well received but a spellbinding cover of Neil Young’s Cinnamon Girl brought the evening to a close.
In short, I suspect my first gig of 2022 could well end up being my favourite. I felt privileged to watch three fine craftsmen, at the top of their game, get on stage with only one full rehearsal and absolutely knock it out the park.
The show was put together by Douglas MacIntyre, the man behind the FRETS CONCERTS series in Strathaven and having already staged shows by the likes of Tim Burgess, Altered Images and The Bluebells, they are without a doubt one of the best gig events in this country. To find out about upcoming gigs and to order tickets, head over to their website here.