As a whole there was nothing groundbreaking – but effortlessly enjoyable – until he played The Fox from his ‘Home EP’. MacLeod’s voice filled the venue whilst the track built to a tense crescendo, with deservedly rapturous applause.
“Is it still raining outside?” was how Howe Gelb, greeted the an eager and tightly packed Celtic Connections crowd, the commander and chief of Giant Sand resplendent in denim and a trademark stetson. “Come on Howie” bawled back from a keen fan, breaking in a touch of humour to the evening as Howe reminded him “It’s only one syllable!”.
From their fuzz country punk beginnings to the more recent minimal jazz compositions, opening with ‘Shiver’ they built up a groove that had the audience shimmying in unison. Whilst concentrating on tracks from new album Blurry Blue Mountain, Howe dutifully dealt with requests from the crowd, even obliging a persistent lady’s plea for a rendition of Rainer Ptacek’s ‘Inner Flame’.
Over the course of their career, Giant Sand have also worked with a variety of collaborators – with Howe giving a shout out to Glasgow’s own Isobel Campbell, before treating their audience with the fruit of their labour – ‘Stranded Pearl’.
A riot causing rendition of debut album opener ‘Thin Line Man’ shook like it should be have been at a different gig, due to the level of fucked up feedback and intensity the band put into the performance.
Before returning to a relieving encore with ‘Spiral’, Howe apologised for Americans stealing the word ‘Cheers’ and felt that he should start using a more fitting exultation for the opening weekend of the festival. As he rose his pint to send the crowd back into the rain with ‘Elations!’, it was very much so Mr Gelb. Very much so.