@ Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow, on Sat 29 Jan 2016
(part of Celtic Connections)

Three songs into his “rockestral” (rock band meets orchestral) concert, James Grant says, ‘I hope youse are having a good time…because I’m missing Robert Plant for this…and so are youse!’

There are no signs of a flood (or even a trickle) of people suddenly heading for the exits, and based on the musical offerings up to that point, this is not a surprise.

Combining a string section with a rock band can be tricky. However the Hallelujah Strings (a.k.a. Grant’s own bespoke orchestra) are used wisely here, to complement and enhance, but never overwhelm the source material.

Jacqueline’s Shoes is an early highlight. The strings are sharp and punchy, a musical stiletto driven straight through the heart. It’s immediately followed by a blistering version of Lips Like Ether.

Grant, the cuddly curmudgeon of Scottish rock says, ‘I’m so totally loving this.’ It shows in his performance. His voice is strong and he sings from his soul.

On the introduction to Whisky Dream, Grant tells all about the difficult gestation of the song, written during his Kate Bush lycra period… allegedly. The treatment of the song proves worth the cost of the disturbing mental image he plants… and that’s a considerable achievement. Is there a therapist in the house?

If there’s one song that really fulfils the potential of this evening, it’s The Devil’s Debt. A full-blown rock song that is taken to a new level by the impressive contribution of The Hallelujah Strings. The gig changes pace and expectations are challenged. Grant’s singing has never been better; he seems inspired.

Jocelyn Square sounds funkier than ever before. As the last song approaches, Grant observes, ‘It’s been a total gas.’ He’s not wrong. The audience are advised before Winter is played, that if they ‘go properly mental’, there may just be an encore. They do and the band exit the stage to a standing ovation.

Inevitably, they return and the audience stay on their feet (well, it helps when you’re dancing) as the anthemic Hallelujah Man is played.

The final encore is a rousing cover of Bowie’s Starman. A fitting tribute to the Thin White Duke from Glasgow’s own Skinnymalinky Peely-wally Laird.