Opening the quiet auditorium of the ABC, Jim Moray took to the stage with a handful of onlookers pinned down front – hoping to make him feel like he was actually playing to an audience. Standing solo in the middle of the vast stage Jim looked a tad out of place, even with any recent arrivals moving forward, he soon enquired “is it time for a big ballad yet?” without much reply.
As he continued to prove a captive and enthralling presence, with the barrier swelling with spectators after each number. At times, Mr Moray came across more as a teacher. Introducing each traditional piece with a bit of back-story and history, such as his version of Joseph Taylor’s ‘Rufford Park Poachers’ or F.G. Child’s song about infanticide ‘Lamkin’.
“Have I brought you down enough?” – was an ironic quip for a man that obviously loves the history of English folk music and the “traditional wisdom” therein. He underlined this with his own composition, ‘Sweet England’, standing out with reflections on immigration and missing home. An incredibly enjoyable set which may have proved difficult to follow.
As Ani Difranco strolled onto stage in front of “the biggest disco ball in Europe” to the roar of fanatical audience, it became apparent that she would also be playing solo. No fretting however; over the course of 18 albums and over two decades in the music business, Ani has learnt a thing or two about playing a show. Opening with ‘Anticipate’ from 1991’s ‘Not So Soft’ she had the immediately audience’s full attention.
Treating the Glasgow crowd to a mixture of tunes across her discography, Ani also presented a number of songs from her forthcoming album ‘What side are you on?’. With her last album ‘Red Letter Year’ in 2008, a lifetime in Ani’s trajectory, the audience seemed quite gleeful for the opportunity to hear new material.
Ani proved to be consistently charming company. Self deprecating, truly appreciative and with a smile on her face the whole time – even on such heavy numbers as ‘Dilate’ which shook the venue as if a full band were backing her. At moments, Ani made the occassion seem less like a gig and more like seeing some good friends catch up with one another.
Filling in on of her family life, the US political system and the tragedy of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and its affect on the residents tapered the setlist warmly. A particularly funny moment was when she commented on “celebrity whores” adverts in the UK, minimising any damage to their creditability back in their American homeland, such as “IGGY POP SELLING CAR INSURANCE?!”.
Her initial enthrallment with the disco ball proved for a picturesque for the encore, the audience showered in its glow, providing a party atmosphere for ‘Both Hands’ and ‘Untouchable Face’. Finishing with John Prine’s gorgeous “Angel from Montgomery” the ABC emptied on a reflectively cheery note.
A wonderful gig in many respects, but there are many things worse than sharing an evening in the presence of Ani Difranco. One can’t help feeling the night was much less for Celtic Connections and much more her dedicated fanbase, because that’s exactly who Ani was pandered to.