Celtic Connections: C Duncan, Man of Moon at Saint Luke’s, 26/1/17

An object lesson tonight – always choose your support acts carefully: whether by design, accident, or simply the vagaries of playing at a festival – for that is what Celtic Connections is – C Duncan, all-conquering hometown hero he may be, is nonetheless utterly blown off the stage by the previous set from Man Of Moon.

It’s a curious performance from the Mercury Prize-nominee all in – the gig is paced more like an early set from a DJ in a house club; gentle, wafting, polite beginnings only really getting going half way through: when put against the staccato, almost brutal brilliance of the duo just left the stage, it’s all… it’s all… just a little underwhelming.

And that ‘p’ word – polite – springs up time and time again; he’s never going to be Motorhead – nor should he be when he has brilliance such as the bucolic beauty that is ‘Say’ in the locker, but, the exceedingly mixed crowd – telling in itself – is perhaps treated to music that currently seems like it is trying to be all things to all people; a dangerous game… the dangers of being insipid lurk around the edges of that one.

Man Of Moon have the sound, the look and sheer stage presence of real contenders: for such a young band, they have an understated confidence that is truly impressive; mixed drum kit, guitar, away we go.

It’s dark and brooding but with a thump that totally belies their minimal setup; a band to keep a very close eye on; check the Medicine EP on Melodic records for an insight into a very exciting and loud proposition.

The headliner, on the other hand, whilst still being a relative ingenue, has enough experience to tighten things up: the beauty of the pastoral chords and drifting melodies are all there but, whether or not tonight’s gig is essentially a family affair – and the clan are in tonight – there’s a looseness around the performance and the in between song ‘banter’ that grates a little.

When things hit such as on the aforementioned and majestic ‘Say’ or the excellent ‘Architect’, it’s transcendent: you totally get why he garners so much attention, rightly, but then we meander about a bit, enlivened by some occasionally quite thrilling and jazzy drums from the five piece band but, and this seems quite harsh, it can come across as quite amateurish – a curious state of affairs.

C Duncan no longer has the shock of the new, is no longer a curio; we know the schtick now – and, when applied properly, it is a glorious and beguiling USP, but, despite us being in a converted church tonight, the quasi-choirboy vibe cannot succeed on sporadic spikes and charm alone.

At a crossroads now: tighten up, exploit that undoubted talent, drop the appealing to your gran attitude… above all, get some oomph in there; the music stands it, the crowd will appreciate it.

Conservatoire gig, this should not be.

One band member nearly doesn’t make tonight on account of smashing into a door with no little force the day before: (musically) more of that please, C Duncan, more of that…

Words: Vosne Malconsorts

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