SHETLANDERS had their Up-Helly Aa fatigue blown away on Friday night by the exhilarating Transatlantic Sessions at the Clickimin, writes James Stewart.
The sold out event was a showcase of the crème-de-la-crème of folk music, with members of the 18-piece ensemble hailing from Scotland, Ireland, America and Canada.
For three hours the audience was captivated by a range of musical styles and performers, including such high profile names as Raul Malo, the former lead singer of The Mavericks and three-time BRIT-award recipient Eddi Reader.
The event was spearheaded by Shetland’s own fiddle legend Aly Bain, along with the equally renowned Jerry Douglas, described by the New York Times as “Dobro’s matchless contemporary master”. Both men have been involved in the Transatlantic Sessions for some time now, and Aly admitted that bringing the group up for a concert in Shetland was “a dream”.
The event had generated a great buzz in the isles since it was announced in November last year, and when the doors opened on the night, there were queues as far back as the running track at Clickimin.
The stage – which was enormous – had a seated area at the back for musicians to sit at if they were not performing on that particular song, giving the entire show a casual, friendly feeling. Opening with an instrumental tune, Aly joked that the band intended to “start with some music, and do that for the rest of the night”. The harmony of the entire band soon became clear. Besides their note-perfect performance they were seen joking, chatting and dancing onstage.
The band had a rotational front-spot, with singers changing every couple of songs to perform their own work with the backing of the band. The audience heard sombre tales of logging, old industries and broken hearts, but also songs of love, hope and astronomer Galileo.
A collective wave of goosebumps washed over the crowd as Ruth Moody took centre stage and performed some of her own enchanting work, which was some of the best received material of the entire show.
Eddi Reader had the crowd singing along to her rendition of Robbie Burns’ Green Grow the Rushes, O and Love is the Way by Declan O’Rourke. Irish guitarist O’Rourke proved a hit with the crowd through not only his music but his entertaining stage banter.
When it was former Mavericks’ lead singer Raul Malo’s turn to step up to the microphone, Jerry Douglas introduced him as having “the best voice in the entire world”. The crowd must have agreed as he received rapturous applause for his contribution.
As the band wrapped up their last song, they received a standing ovation. Before they had even begun to leave the stage, the audience was calling for an encore and the entire ensemble rounded together for a final time to perform Hank Williams’ Hey Good Lookin’. The audience were notably delighted with what they had just witnessed, with hundreds sticking around to get photos and buy CD’s from the artists.
Davie Gardner of Atlantic Edge Music Services, who had organised the event locally, said he was “relieved” that the musicians had been able to make it to Shetland on a tight schedule.
“I was delighted that the musicians enjoyed their trip to Shetland and that the gig was a success. We have all been bowled over with the feedback on the night and indeed since”.
Davie also dropped a hint that should excite Shetlanders – Raul Malo, who had been a rip-roaring success on the night, has already expressed his desire to return to Shetland in the near future.