If the Opening Concert on Thursday showed the capability of Celtic music to adapt to the situation in hand, the headline appearance of The Treacherous Orchestra showed the superb vibrancy of a scene that seems to be hitting its peak, even before the denizens in last night’s spotlight have had the courtesy of releasing a debut album.
As plans go that highly anticipated recording should be delivered in the summer, when their first (but hopefully not last) full-length has been promised for release, but for the moment the 13-piece group have already in their short history built up such an ardent fanbase than they can command a hefty audience that submits unquestioningly to their bidding within the sizeable confines of the ABC. Before fully embarking on their journey The Treacherous Orchestra brazenly pledged "a night of treachery", and such sinister delights were a glorious thing to behold.
They began with an atmospheric builder, white lights picking out some of the numerous members gathered in wait in the gloom, instrumental interplay building up until a hefty roar was gratifyingly emitted from onlookers, drums jittering into life as the band in their ferocious might delivered a seismic shock to the senses.
Goodness, and that was even before the second number had a chance to make its presence gloriously felt, the progressive number indulging itself in the sort of belligerent and moshworthy stomp that should rightly have brought the venue crashing down into a heap of rubble and triumphalism. Instead it was just rapturously received with minimal hysterics, unless you counted casual pogoing and the plenty of fists that were being regularly thrusted into the air.
Bagpipes, flute, fiddle, accordion… all instrumentation was incorporated expertly, with no need need for vocals, so well utilised was those implements deployed close at hand. Though accordionist John Somerville promised to encourage “mayhem and chaos”, the group were so tightly reigned in that each extravagance brought with it a sharp intake of breath: this was party music with a purpose. (Even if you'd suspect that purpose was merely to party as much as possible.)
Indeed, though it was “a night of treachery” promised at the start, what we got instead was a brilliant and visceral real-time revitalisation of the Scottish music scene (reaching out far beyond the narrow confines within which purists would love to categorise their style); instead of capitulating to the fantastic foreign hordes appearing on our shores as part of Celtic Connections, it instead made the most of our fantastic traditional heritage. Influences were many and varied, lifting quotes from Freddy Got Fingered and melding bass riffs which resembled Rage Against The Machine, and then was a fitting tribute to the envelope-pushing Scottish composer and piper Gordon Duncan, which needed no wider context to see the crowd waving to its beguiling melodies.
Off stage for mere seconds before expected guttural hollers required their presence for an encore, The Treacherous Orchestra’s presence was that of a band fully aware that they beat into a silly cocked hat any of the supposedly more modern pop acts that clog up our charts, this 'supergroup' of the country's best young musicians confident in their abilities and in need of an avalanche of superlatives from anyone required to describe their show. Indeed, as it turned out there was no treachery, perfidy of duplicity involved, this ragbag of an orchestra only inspiring loyalty and a wealth of positive feeling that couldn't be better suited for a Friday night. Goodness, with Celtic Connections in this sort of form, what would be the point of partying to anything else?
CELTIC CONNECTIONS COMES TO TOWN