The Bard’s Tale was a popular 1980s role-playing video game that has recently been revived by games publisher inXile Entertainment with the release of The Bard’s Tale IV: Barrows Deep. It takes its influence from Gaelic fables and the evocative soundtrack tried to reflect this. In this live multimedia performance, Simple Minds bassist Ged Grimes presents a theatrical interpretation of the songs from the game, along with projected game footage.

The concert begins with a short set from six-piece folk band Heisk. Their sound takes its influence from Scottish traditional music, but has a vibrant and ferocious tone. The band feature two fiddle players, a keyboardist, harpist, drummer and accordion player. Their music is infused with rhythms and grooves that elevate their influences, giving them an upbeat and contemporary feel. The band mention that they have only been gigging since March 2018 and within less than a year Heisk already sound like an original and exciting group of musicians.

Ged Grimes takes to the stage of the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall to introduce the main event and explain how the project came to being, when he was asked to draw on traditional Celtic and Gaelic music to create the soundtrack. Although the event begins in a sombre and understated tone, the mood escalates where rhythm and song take over.

Grimes is joined onstage by a variety of talented musicians including singers Kathleen MacInnes, Fiona Hunter, Eilidh Cormack and Kim Carnie. Each song sets the mood of the game with references to orcs, dwarf mines and the mythical land of Skara Brae. As the musicians perform, footage of the game is projected to the back of the stage. Here we witness a virtual environment that presents vast landscapes, quaint villages, frozen tundras and lush woodlands.

The visuals are very much influenced by Tolkien and the presentation feels a bit like an elaborate trailer for the game. There is no narrative to the footage; it creates an atmosphere instead. In between songs, The Bard (played by John Buick) takes to the stage to offer narration to the heroes’ quest. His rhyming couplets underline the fantasy and whimsy of the The Bard’s Tale, but distract from the music and add very little to the concert experience. The soundscapes and visuals are more than enough to get the feeling and emotion across.

Grimes concludes by mentioning that this style of event is a first for Celtic Connections, but very much in keeping with the style and attitude of the festival – looking at traditional music and also the future.