Live review: Celtic Connections: Lau at City Halls, 4/2/12

I realise that this isn’t your average Celtic Connections gig (if there is such a thing) when I arrive, two minutes late, and I’m informed by a smartly dressed woman with serious tone that “at the composer’s request, latecomers will not be granted entry”.


Thankfully I’m grudged entry when somebody leaves provided that I sit quietly on a bench at the back of the room, with a scornful glare the woman warns “do NOT take a seat.”

From my perch in the dunce’s corner I admire the City Halls, the venue is befittingly elegant as the home of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra.

The walls are bright white, with stately columns supporting the balcony, it has an almost Grecian feel and I’m compelled to sit up straight, and listen.

Lau (Kris Drever, Aidan O Rourke and Martin Green) are a trio of musicians who are each applauded in their own right musically; together they play traditional music with a cutting edge that has seen them win countless folk awards.

Tonight is a collaboration between Lau, the Northern Sinfonia Orchestra and composer Brian Irvine, it’s completely different from the normal song/applause/song/applause/encore set – they play a 45 minute long concept piece called ‘Strange Attractors’.

‘Strange Attractors’ was developed in a very unusual way, quite removed from the usual band ‘jam’, Lau were encouraged by Irvine to use a random number generator to define what they played and when, Irvine would then take these pockets of sound and manipulate them to create an orchestrated piece.

Throughout, it’s hard to take your eyes of Brian Irvine, he conducts the orchestra in an enthused frenzy; his arms like darts propelling towards each violin, double bass, clarsach, glock.

It genuinely feels as if you’re in a Disney film, it’s like a soundtrack, your imagination races to fill the plot line.

Although everyone’s interpretation would be different, I definitely feel at sea and – this may sound ridiculous – on a ship.

There are calms before storms, crashing waves and walks of the plank, when Drever sings (which is rarely) he uses a low, haunting voice as if singing a woeful fisherman’s tale.

Out of the 45 minutes there is only a short part that jars, my ears feel strained and confused as the sounds clash, piercing high notes of wind instruments punctuate the accordion’s drone and the rhythm of the guitar seems unintelligible.

But then, I think that is the intention, it’s a moment of confusion within the film in my mind, my senses simply aren’t used to being awakened beyond the average like that.

In the end Lau, the Northern Sinfonia Orchestra and Brian Irvine receive a thoroughly deserved standing ovation, it is clear that others in the audience share my awe, everyone involved in the production looks proud and delighted at their reception.

It was an eye opening experience that truly stretched the imagination, the music is of great quality and I am on the edge of my latecomer perch throughout.

I wish more people had seen it, I’ll certainly be less impressed by the next three minute, three chord band I see; I’m glad I got in!

Words: Leonie Colmar
Photos: Debbie McCuish

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One thought on “Live review: Celtic Connections: Lau at City Halls, 4/2/12”

  1. thanks for writing it up, hope your seat wasn’t too uncomfortable. 🙂 Lau
    PS, it wasn’t our request that latecomers not be allowed in, if we had that rule, we might miss our own gigs x

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