Into Music Reviews: Hothouse Flowers at Queen Margaret Union, Glasgow
Hothouse Flowers: 6 November Queen Margaret Union, Glasgow
This was something of a rescue job after my last experience of the Hothouse Flowers at Celtic Connections in 2013. The Fruitmarket show was a complete mess with Liam Ó Maonlaí, in particular, rambling incoherently and singing the same line of songs over and over again for minutes on end. They were all over the place and I think it is fair to say drink had been taken and it sits comfortably in my top 5 worst ever gigs. So, I was in two minds about risking a similar outcome but reckoned they surely couldn’t be that dire again. I’m glad I made the effort as they took their second chance and more than redeemed themselves this time round.
From the opening song, the haunting Irish folk ballad, She Moved Through the Fair, to the set closer, End of the Road, it was a different band, Ó Maonlaí was up dancing barefoot, chatting to the audience and singing a few songs without sitting behind his keyboard. Last time I don’t remember him leaving his piano stool apart from to leave the stage. There was still the occasional meandering and end of song jams but this time they were much more focused and added something rather than the shambles of 5 years ago.
Although Ó Maonlaí orchestrates everything from his central stage position he is more than ably assisted by Peter O’Toole playing bass and bouzouki, Fiachna Ó Braonáin on guitar, Dave Clarke on drums with Martin Brunsdean standing at the back providing double bass. As a band unit, they were on the button, and you could see the jams weren’t rehearsed as they all tried to follow the groove.
Movies and One Tongue were early highlights and halfway through the show Ó Maonlaí called up a guy from the audience, Tommy McIntyre, after his sister had contacted the band to say he was a massive fan. They then got him to sit in and play the keyboards on Sweet Marie and it was fantastic and emotionally charged as at one point Tommy couldn’t hold back the tears but he could certainly play and added a different dimension to the song. A real high-point of the evening.
The Johnny Nash cover I Can See Clearly Now, which provided them with a UK top 40 hit way back in 1990 was the best received song of the evening before a samba/salsa version of Don’t Go that didn’t quite work for me closed the main set.
During the encore their other attempt at getting people on the stage was a little less successful. They called up a girl who did a bit of Irish dancing which was fine, she was followed by another girl who came on and did some martial arts display without any musical accompaniment. It left the audience slightly bemused at this rather odd turn of events, but the band soon got back on track finishing with End of the Road and it’s safe to say I’ll be back next time.
Sweet Marie from the QM Show
I Can See Clearly Now