FINLEY Quaye, an Edinburgh-born musician, graced the stage at the Lerwick Legion on Friday evening to a lively crowd, writes Aaron Leask.
Winner of the 1997 MOBO Award for best reggae act, and the 1998 BRIT Award for Best Male Solo Artist, his debut album Maverick a Strike went multi-platinum propelling him onto the international stage.
Shetland has seen many talented and revered musicians performing here lately. This intimate concert, organised by XL Events, can add Quaye to that burgeoning list.
Having risen to prominence in the late 90s and early 00s, Quaye’s musical presence has been less conspicuous of late. It is perhaps because of this that we found him performing solo to a slowly filling Lerwick Legion on a cold Friday night rather than on our TV screens plugging new music on Graham Norton.
The concert was bookended by two of Shetland’s most prominent musical talents. Arthur Nicholson, self-proclaimed “friendly neighbourhood support act”, began with some very tight guitar work and catchy melodies from his solo releases.
There was a slight delay before the main act came on, giving the audience a sneak preview of what DJ Lyall would serve up later in the evening. However, it seemed the hold-up made some of the crowd a bit restive, and on telling the audience of the changed schedule DJ Lyall wittily swatted away some heckles.
At last it was time for the main act. Arriving with guitar in hand and ready to go, Finley Quaye was met with a now nearly full audience eager to hear his particular brand of popularised reggae and songwriting.
Kicking off with some covers, from Bob Marley’s Redemption Song through Neil Young to an obscure cover of a cover of Led Zeppelin, we heard the full range of his plaintive, and at times brittle, voice.
Quaye continued the set throwing in some of his big hits, much to the delight of the vivacious crowd. Beginning with Dice, using extended chords and sevenths to great effect to augment the texture of the music. Next were It’s Great When We’re Together and Your Love Gets Sweeter, which had the audience singing along to the hook in the chorus even after he had finished the song.
The last few songs of the night were a mixture of particular musical highlights. Sunday Shining got some of the crowd clapping along to the beat and, although the event was too intimate to inspire dancing, there was still one audience member who managed to get their skank on.
The show ended on a softer note with Even After All showing off an emotional lilt to his voice through melismatic runs whilst keeping the vocals understated throughout.
Less is more was the philosophy to Quaye’s style of performing. He managed to morph many of the well-known melodies whilst maintaining the heart of each song. There was an air of modesty to the performance, although one wonders how much the delay at the beginning unsettled the audience. It would be interesting to see Finley Quaye with a full setup, and with a new album due out next year, perhaps we can cross our fingers that Shetland could feature on the tour.