At one point during Admiral Fallow’s gig in Mareel on Saturday night, there was a repetitive chink emanating from the bar, writes Chris Cope.
It wasn’t the staff sorting change or cleaning up, but it was their wine glasses shuddering from the bass-heavy sound next door in the auditorium.
It was another symbolic confirmation that the Glasgow band’s set was at times a different affair to their first performance in the Shetland at the folk festival three years ago.
On that occasion, as they headlined the Clickimin Centre, they tended to mine the ‘folk’ part of their indie-folk tag, but this weekend saw the group turn up the rock – not quite to eleven, mind you – with a more contemporary, electric sound.
The night did open with acoustic guitars, however, with Adam Guest impressing with tracks like Open The Book and newbie The First, showcasing a soulful, smooth sheen.
Fellow singer-songwriter Arthur Nicholson followed with another short set – both supports were given only three songs to play with – and the musician’s knack for penning head-numbingly catchy ditties was evident on the peppy Go For It, which will no doubt have implanted its hook into the minds of those in attendance for the foreseeable future.
Guest and Nicholson struggled to get real momentum rolling as a result of the time constraints, but Admiral Fallow hit the ground running – and rarely slowed down.
They came to Shetland proudly carrying their stellar third record Tiny Rewards under their twelve arms – an album that took the band’s sound further away from the folk roots, adding more electronic nods and a rock emphasis.
Their set in the Mareel auditorium was a varied affair, grabbing tracks from the new album whilst also honouring their back catalogue’s more notable numbers.
Lead vocalist and guitarist Louis Abbott may be the natural focal point of Admiral Fallow, but their set was a team performance, with numerous keyboards, flutes, clarinets and percussion melting together to mould rich, multi-layered hues.
Opener Liquor and Milk was an apt choice for starters, starring a driving drum rhythm and congruous harmonies between Abbott and dainty sidekick Sarah Hayes.
Fellow new track Evangeline meanwhile was another jewel in the crown, bringing interwoven musicianship and beguiling chord progressions to the fray.
Admiral Fallow don’t shy away from melody and pop sensibilities, and the song Squealing Pigs – perhaps this band’s most noted single – enticed punters to the dance floor with aplomb.
It felt like Mareel was made for concerts like this, with its sound system noting the nuances in Admiral Fallow’s songwriting; Isn’t This World Enough? meanwhile invited a crowd sing-a-long – something the group did the day before at a workshop with school pupils in Yell. Very different audiences, but the language of music is universal.
Taking into account the full band flair, it’s perhaps ironic that one of the night’s highlights was a rendition of Four Bulbs, a tune featuring one solitary guitar and all six members’ vocal cords.
Lined up near just one microphone, the Scots’ succulent harmonies managed the impressive feat of shutting up the audience, leaving the room still, serene and speculating – with hope – just when this band will make the trip north to play our isles once again.