Pronto Mama, Bwani Junction, Redolent, Mark McGowan at St Lukes, 4/12/15

When it was first announced that Pronto Mama and Bwani Junction – arguably two of Scotland’s best live acts- were playing together, it was quickly predicted to be the “gig of the year”.

The highly anticipated line up is made complete by Redolent and singer-songwriter Mark McGowan.

Despite the size of the venue, and the considerably big turn out for the beginning of the night, Mark McGowan takes to the stage and instantly silences the crowd.

His intricate guitar playing compliments his voice as he flows through his first few songs.

With every song, the crowd edges closer to the front, with some even singing along- in his three-month career he has quickly established himself and tonight it is apparent he will leave with some new fans.

There is a definite curiosity to his songs, he draws you in with his inimitable way of telling the stories in his songs that you find yourself not being able to break away from.

Probably the song McGowan is best known for, ‘Bonnie and Clyde’, is next as his set nears the end and it is filled with sweet ornaments throughout, and with McGowan’s distinctive voice, making it very easy to see why everyone loves it.
With his last song being, ‘Colour of Surrender’, he changes the song up, bring it down from a high to just a simple beat on the body of his guitar as he sings.

His set finishes to an eruption of applause from those lucky enough to see the first act.

Redolent are next, and they don’t hold back and are full of energy as they start their set.

Right away they take control of the stage, creating a new vibe that only gets more intense with each song.

With two bigger bands to follow they hold their set well with the venue filling up fast.

Definitely a band to watch, and a brilliant support slot.

Bwani Junction is known for having a solid fan base, so there’s no surprise in the sudden rise in numbers.

Tonight is a night to showcase some new songs rather than play their older stuff- a bit bittersweet for their fans, but for many this is their first time seeing this band.

The elaborate signature style of the bands playing has changed, the African influence is still there but the sound is stronger and the new songs go down well if the dancing is anything to go by.

Back in June they performed Paul Simon’s Graceland album in their hometown of Edinburgh, which was met with a massive acclaim, and tonight they treat us to their rendition of ‘Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes’.

The whole African feel is still evident, the bass is clear and sounds amazing; they’ve completely mastered this cover, making it their own and bring the atmosphere in the crowd up a level.

To finish they play a fan favourite ‘Two Bridges’, one that everybody knows so of course everyone is singing-along.

Amazing performance from Bwani Junction, the new material sounds very promising and looks like they are ready to make that next step.

As Bwani Junction leave the stage there is a noticeable shift in the crowd, those who were at the front take a step back, while everyone else pushes to get to the front for Pronto Mama.

The six-piece take to the stage, they’ve never played to this big a crowed before and quickly open up ‘Goose Steps’ and ‘Only Human’ from their second EP.

All members come to the front for the third song, ‘Sentiment’, a courageous acapella number that meets with an incredible applause.

It is unlike anything anyone has done today, as well as unlike anything that other bands are doing.

Their musical talents are undeniable, and the next song ‘Remission’ really shows that with prominence of the brass instruments.

They play another few songs including the newest, ‘Arabesque’, like Bwani Junction their new material is more than capable of outdoing the success of the previous stuff.

They end with ‘One Trick Pony’ from their debut EP, always a good one for the crowd to jump fanatically along to, and with the adrenaline at a new high the crowd chant for them to come back on for another song after they leave.

Their encore is a cover of Franz Ferdinand’s ‘Take Me Out’, and again for the second time this night, a band have outdone the original version with their own take on a cover.

Pronto Mama have had a great few years gaining a fan base, as well as tightening their sound and constantly progressing, but tonight is the best I’ve personally ever heard them- it doesn’t take a lot to see that they are entering the new year as a well established band with a lot about to happen for them.

Tonight surpasses all expectation, even though the expectations were very high; it’s early December, but it’s definitely one of the best gigs of 2015.

Words: Olivia Campbell
Photos: Bill Gray

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