Since their breakthrough in 2015 (after winning the BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award) Talisk has developed a reputation for delivering rowdy live sets featuring their own particular fast-and-furious style of folk. It’s a reputation they easily maintained with the fun, frenetically paced set they provided on their Edinburgh International Festival debut.
Early on concertinaist Mohsen Amina even jokes about their frantic style after their first couple of songs, saying that on the next one ‘they are going to slow down … for about 14 seconds.’ And he is not wrong as, after a brief melancholic interlude, they are soon back at it with Hayley Keenan’s blazing fiddle, Graeme Armstrong’s frenzied guitar, and Amina’s fiery concertina playing.
It’s trad folk all right, but not as you know it. Given the volume and fizzing tempo of the music, the gig sometimes feel more akin to a rave than a folk gig. Or certainly as close to a rave as a seated, socially-distanced gig can get.
There is little doubt that a key part of the trio’s appeal is their audience interactions. Amina takes to the role of chief fun co-ordinator with ease, leading the crowd in various bouts of hand-clapping, stomping, and even a concertina call-and-response later on. This evening’s crowd were clearly primed to join in the manic energy emanating from the stage, with regular bouts of enthusiastic, ceilidh-style hollering throughout the set (not surprising given it was the first live gig back for the majority).
While there is no doubting the band’s musicianship, stagecraft, or endless energy, if there is to be one criticism it would be the slight lack of variety. As the melody and tempo of the set stayed fairly similar, it meant there was a tendency for some songs to blur into one another. They often follow a similar template too, either starting slow before changing tempo mid-song and getting fast, or starting fast, slowing down in the middle and then shooting off again in the finale.
It would be unfair to say that every song follows these patterns though. There is some variety, such as cool-down number The Hills, which is noticeably slower and more melancholic than rest of the proceedings. Given how joyous their distinct brand of folk is though, it’s difficult to knock them too much for it either.
Certainly, looking at the make-up of the crowd, Talisk have clearly reinvigorated traditional sounds for a younger audience as there were as many students in the audience as there were pensioners. And all ages in-between, for that matter.
Before letting us head back into the night, Talisk hit us with one last barnstorming number (Dystopia). A pulsating cap on an exuberant evening of folk which provided a cogent reminder of the joy of live music. It would have taken a very hard-heart indeed to have left the University of Edinburgh’s Old College Quad without a smile on their face and skip in their step.