Declan Welsh

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A man with a fine skill for musical storytelling and it can only get better over time.

Image of Declan Welsh

@ Glad Cafe, Glasgow, on Wed 18 May 2016

With the Southside Fringe in full swing, the Glad Café plays host to a gig boasting some of the exciting new musical talent Glasgow has to offer. It’s a night dedicated to the art of the singer-songwriter, with Declan Welsh and Josephine Sillars putting in very enjoyable sets with their accompanying bands. They show that music doesn’t have to be complex and over-thought to be effective; sometimes all you need is a good story to tell.

Before the much anticipated headline act, Josephine Sillars takes to the stage behind her trusty keyboard with an accompanying drummer and bass player. With bright and snappy vocals, she has a refreshing, quirky style which revolves around her idiosyncratic lyrics and folksy melodies, reminiscent of Regina Spektor. Her opener Hurricane begins darkly before making use of effective crescendos to create a stirring chorus, while You’re Not The Reason addresses a former flame, defiant in its charming optimism. A cover of dance classic Show Me Love allows for some keyboard-banging and a change of pace, while Sun And The Moon is sweet with its swaying keys as Sillars shows off her vocal potential. If she hones her raw musicianship and verges away from the theatrical, therefore finding a more concrete style, this set is suggestive of a bright future ahead.

It quickly becomes clear though that the majority of those in the venue are here to see Declan Welsh. Having gained a number of high profile support slots with the likes of Glasvegas, The Proclaimers and Ocean Colour Scene, and having spent a fair amount of time gigging around Glasgow, Welsh’s reputation has been steadily growing over the past year.

He takes to the stage in bold and confrontational fashion, immediately hushing the crowd as he spits out the words to his poem called Lads, a sardonic sneer at lad culture. Met with a rousing reception, everything seems to be starting so well, until technical difficulties threaten to dampen the mood. While this would maybe faze your average young performer, Welsh takes it in his stride and instead delves into his collection of poems; an inspired move which allows him to show off his talents as a wordsmith. Aiming his satirical social commentary at the political elite (David Cameron we’re looking at you) and the bouncers at the rather awful Bamboo nightclub, he shows the kind of swagger and Glaswegian sense of humour that’s impossible not to like; ‘I wonder how many people have been chucked out of Bamboo and gone home and written a poem about it’, he smirks.

When all instruments are in working order, the gig cranks up a notch. Having regularly appeared as a solo act with an acoustic guitar, the band as a four-piece give his songs more muscle and depth; performing more regularly together has clearly paid off. His indie rock influences are clear throughout the set, moving from punk-fuelled rock’n’roll moments to summery indie pop tunes; he’s certainly got enough catchy guitar riffs and singalong choruses to share. He shows another dimension to his material with some folk and bluesy influences, before Be Mine slows things down in a more tender moment.

It’s all about the Billy Bragg style lyrics though, full of witty observations and satire, delivered with those sneering vocals to add aggression. Whether it’s about romance, politics or a night on the town, Declan Welsh has a fine skill for musical storytelling and it can only get better over time.