Returning to Glasgow for the first time in five years (thanks, Covid), Israel Nash brings his cosmic tales of spirits and ancestors to the altar of Saint Luke’s. The venue is fast becoming known as the city’s best ‘wee’ place for quality gigs and the healthy Celtic Connections crowd certainly feels like a congregation by the time Nash ends his set with the epic jams of ‘Firedance’ and ‘Rain Plans’.

Before Nash, Ireland’s Niall McNamee warms up the crowd, armed with an acoustic guitar and foot drum. McNamee is no rookie however, with a strong repertoire at his disposal as well as a traditional Irish charm between songs. Tales of breakups, his fledgling acting career and his grandfather’s flexibility with the truth has the audience eating every word and setting the scene perfectly for each expertly crafted song. Handsome, witty and a cracking songwriter? The Irish know how to make them.

As the room packs out for the headline act, this reviewer couldn’t help notice the abundance of silver topped (mostly male) toe-tappers among the crowd. Even on a cold Tuesday night in January, Glasgow’s auld rockers can still be relied on to keep live music in the city going. That said, it does make you wonder what more can be done to get more young people out to appreciate more quality acts.

Anyway…Nash and his band soon take the stage; the group starting up an ambient prelude before Nash launches into ‘Can’t Stop’, the opener to most recent record Ozarker. It’s a classic MOR radio groove and is followed by the album’s title track, ‘Woman at the Well’, ‘Roman Candle’ and ‘Lucky Ones’. It’s a fairly breathless start to proceedings with the band tight but enjoying the freedom to riff and jam along with their leader, feeding off his energy. 

Nash, all hat and hair, enjoys himself on stage and its obvious Ozarker is a personal record. Not only does the album flesh out most of the set (including the singalong hit ‘Pieces’) but his experiences of creating these songs is told with a mystical flair belying his 43 years. Dreaming of the Ozarks and the serenity of his Texan home seems a little at odds to a bitingly cold Glasgow but gigs are, if anything, made for allowing us to be swept away to more fanciful places.

It may be fair to say Israel Nash broke through in the UK with 2018 record Lifted so it was a treat to hear a couple of lesser known songs like ‘Baltimore’ from 2011’s Barn Doors and Concrete Floors, and main set closer ‘Mansions’.

Nash also takes a moment to show off his vocal power with all but his pedal steel player leaving to accompany him on ‘Rolling On’ and an intense version of Lost in ‘America’.

It’s an evening of heavy jams, beautiful melodies and tales from the cosmic eagle himself. Pending no further worldwide pandemics, let’s hope we see more of Israel Nash on these shores.