There were so many brilliant shows on offer on Saturday at Celtic Connections, the only problem music fans had to face was deciding which one to attend. The lucky among us who chose The Lone Bellow were treated to a masterclass in vocal power and harmony that sent everyone home shaking their heads in awe.
Support for the evening came from Irish folk singer Lisa Lambe, who made her name with collective Celtic Woman. Playing the festival for the first time she honoured Burns Night with a version of Green Grow the Rashes, encouraging some singing from the crowd. She mainly performed songs from her upcoming album Juniper, inspired by the spirit of an Irish witch and conveying a suitably haunting sound. Her excellent voice and charming stage presence suggests this won’t be the last time we see her on the Celtic Connections stage.
The Lone Bellow are soon to release their new album Half Moon Light, produced by The National’s Aaron Dessner, and so this intimate trio tour seems like the calm before the upcoming publicity storm. Opening with two new songs Wonder and Good Times the stripped back sound allowed for the stunning power of this band’s collective voice to have full impact. Time’s Always Leaving and You Don’t Love Me Like You Used To were so warmly received it led to some amusingly bad attempts at crowd participation (everyone loves to clap on the one and three). By the time they sang Heaven Don’t Call Me Home the audience had thankfully mastered the call and response which the brilliant song deserved.
Zach Williams is a total knock out vocal powerhouse, but the band’s musical chemistry comes from when they sing together and this allowed for the spotlight to be effortlessly shared all evening. Kanene Pipkin took the lead on a number of highlights of the set including Call to War and Power Over Me.
The most poignant moment of the night was new song August, which was written in response to the death of Frightened Rabbit’s Scott Hutchison. Brian Elmquist spoke of having gone through his own personal struggles and how he wanted to write a song to help those suffering in the aftermath of the loss. It was such a beautiful and hopeful tribute, a song which will bring comfort to many I’m sure.
The band finished their set with the foot stomping glory of Green Eyes and a Heart of Gold and the gospel joy of May You Be Well. Stepping forward to sing without microphones they brought the crowd to their feet in collective admiration for the evening’s feat of musical magic.
Love, light and unity are in the bones of this band and they shared that spirit with the crowd from start to finish. It’s no exaggeration to say I would happily listen to them sing for the rest of my life.