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2002 Festival Review

Hothouse Flowers
Baka Beyond
Mairead Nesbitt
Finlay MacDonald
La Volée d'Castors
Alyth McCormack
Christine Primrose

After performances earlier in the week by Baka Beyond, Quebecois band La Volee d'Castors and a reprise of piper Finlay MacDonald's New Voices commission from this year's Celtic Connections, Friday's programme opened with a touch of the exotic - a concert in the town hall by Mongolian singer Tserendaava. Thanks to visits by such acts as his Tuvan neighbours Huun Huur Tu, central belt audiences are relatively familiar with khöömii style - "overtone" or "split note" singing - in which he performs but its first time impact here created an especially intent and appreciative atmosphere.

Finlay Macdonals

Along at the main festival venue, Friday night was Irish night. First up was the rising young fiddle star Mairead Nesbitt, formerly lead soloist with Michael Flatley's Feet of Flames show. Backed by guitar, flute, keyboards, percussion and didgeridoo, Nesbitt displayed an extrovert stage presence and a vigorous, strongly accented style, graced with a lyricism and finesse that recalled her classical training.

Hothouse Flowers

Since their reunion in 1997, Hothouse Flowers have been an erratic if always interesting live act, but on this occasion they triumphantly transcended all the glories of their late 1980's heyday, in an overwhelming two-hour performance that none who experienced it are likely to forget. Their core Celtic soul sound was seamlessly interwoven with African, country, blues, funk and traditional folk strands as classic hits such as Home and I Can See Clearly Now alternated with excellent newer material. The crowd responded with near delirious fervour. Liam O'Maonlai was reportedly so far inspired by his visit as to go skinny-dipping in the Minch during a tour of the island the next day.


Saturday's closing concert was an all-Scottish affair with opening act Brolum demonstrating exactly why they are moving up so swiftly through the ranks of current young bands. An all-acoustic sextet featuring twin fiddles, whistles, guitar, double bass and bodhran, plus songs in Gaelic and English, they matched tasteful traditional treatments with striking rhythmic flair and sparklingly imaginative arrangements.

Rounding things off with a positively explosive bang were "acid croft" pioneers Shooglenifty, sporting new mandolin player and bassist, their characteristic firestorm of wickedly hard-hitting dance grooves and piercingly sweet melodies sounding vibrantly reinvigorated, thanks not least to a crop of superb new tunes.

Sue Wilson