Wednesday, 15 December, 2021 in Culture, Live Reviews, Music

Into Music Live Review: Sister John/The Bluebells

Concert: Sister John/The Bluebells 
Venue: Glasgow CCA
Date:  11 December 2021

Many moons ago, I used to listen to the charts on a Sunday evening. Every now and again, not too often, a song would achieve the impressive feat of going straight in at number one. Using that analogy – and having been to a dozen gigs and TWO festivals since shows opened to the public in the middle of September  – the concert at the CCA in Glasgow featuring Sister John and The Bluebells has went right to the top of the (Christmas) tree, a show so enjoyable I doubt I’ll see a better one anytime soon.   

And not by accident either. Both bands were assured in their performance, quickly at ease in the immaculate surroundings, confident in their craft and delivering performances that went down a storm with the seated audience.

Now I’ve seen bands at more venues in Glasgow than I care to remember but Saturday at the CCA was a first. What a great setting! The cafe and bar areas had a cool vibe while the auditorium was well laid out providing all with a great view of what was unfolding on stage. 

First up, Sister John, a band I’ve only recently discovered via their latest album release I Am By Day on the Last Night From Glasgow label who also staged the event. Kicking off with I’ll Be Your Life from that new album, the four-piece were quickly on the money. Next, they slid into I’m The One featuring a cracking bass intro and sun-kissed guitar. Though early in the set, this was a real highlight, and with slices of Americana playing out, the band took the track up a notch with all four members providing vocals at one point.  

Rider On The Hill was the ideal platform for singer Amanda McKeown’s vocal which shone through and the addition of a violin to the song took it to another level. Have to say, the acoustics in the venue were spot on and really helped showcase the music all night. 

Waiting For The Sun was full of Laurel Canyon melodies before the violin returned and the drums crashed through, building to a pulsing crescendo. As the band are multi instrumentalists, it was something to see as they swapped instruments and places between tracks without the output ever falling below exceptional. 

In My Place was another highlight. Its poppy undertones shone through before their set was brought to a close with Silver Whistle, which initially saw McKeown only accompanied by a quiet guitar before the band burst in, wigging out as the track reached its natural climax. 

Safe to say, that was going to be difficult to match but never discount The Bluebells. Starting off with Forever More this was an ideal five minutes of harmonious pop set things up nicely. Red Guitars soon followed and with Dave McCluskey pounding the drums and Mick Slavin on rock-tinged lead guitar, they really took the track to another level. 

Everybody’s Somebody’s Fool saw Bobby Bluebell take on vocal duties while singer Ken McCluskey’s harmonica really stood out. So much going on and we were only three tunes in! Elsewhere, Douglas MacIntyre on guitar and Campbell Owens on bass laid the foundations for a great take on Some Sweet Day before Cath saw many in the crowd singing the track back at the band.   

As always, it’s difficult to pick out a stand out track but I’m Falling was a kaleidoscope of sounds, again the acoustics of the venue spot on as the band absolutely nailed it. The powerful lyrics of South Atlantic Way remain so and struck a chord as Ken delivered a heartfelt vocal before the band powered through Young At Heart, everyone in the crowd now singing and smiling at the perfect pop song. 

The set concluded with a take on Michael Nesmith’s Rio, a nice touch to the recently departed Monkee. A two song encore started with a cover of Buffalo Springfield’s For What It’s Worth before Sister John joined The Bluebells on stage to run through a raucous and uplifting version of the Velvet Underground’s What Goes On. Ten on stage and suffice to say there was so much going on both visually and aurally – as the bands sang “do what you should, you know it’ll be alright”……..and that’s something we can all believe in. 

Great venue, two bands at the top of their form and as gigs go, this was my highlight of 2021. Would be great if they would do it all again. Actually, they are, with both bands playing the CCA on Saturday 18 December. If you are going along, you are in for an absolute treat. 

John Welsh


Twitter: @sister_john

Facebook: sisterjohnmusic

Facebook: bluebellsofficial

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