This is the first year of six living in Glasgow that I feel underwhelmed by Celtic Connections offerings – there, it’s been said.
Bringing the thrill to the bill, for me, amongst the familiar folk faces, is Stanley Odd; the presence of hip-hop seems to punctuate the line up; puts spit amidst song.
Please don’t take my words as an undermining of Celtic Connections (the savior of Glasgow’s January), after all, the very booking of a rap act shows how forward-looking the festival continues to be.
Lyrically Stanley Odd has Celtic motivations, with most tracks – sometimes in satire, sometimes in celebration – dissecting the culture and politics of Scotland.
So, we have an exciting act with an established fan base, an acclaimed new release (Reject), an exciting onstage collaborator (Electric String Orchestra) and an attitude attuned to the festival’s ethos… guaranteed sell-out, surely?
Tickets to the gig are going slowly, two for one deals have become available and to boost sales there has been last minute publicity performances on Buchanan Street; hip hop is difficult to market amongst fiddles and clarsachs… therein lies the rub.
Yet, The Old Fruitmarket is filling, the ‘Odd are here and in Solereye’s own words “Who’d a thunk it?”
Material is mainly from their new album, Reject, the beats are strong and clear throughout, Solareye maintains an infectious excitability throughout the whole set.
The Electric String Orchestra gives the band a richer, lusher backdrop but on the whole don’t take too much attention from Stanley Odd.
‘Antiheroics’, a song which explores independence and voter apathy, is strongly delivered, with sections stripped back to reinforce the message: “Let me get this straight/ You won’t vote to conserve personal data management/ But you still have a Facebook page and buy stuff from Amazon/ Of course you’re being watched it’s a modern fact/ Putting an X in the box says you’re watching back.”
My mind is cast to Jay Z’s ‘Minority Report’ acapella, the one where he famously unleashed an Obama backdrop on the Pyramid Stage in Glastonbury.
Luckily, the parallels between Jay Z and Stanley Odd start at the politics but end before the pizazz – I don’t think Alex Salmond’s jowly puss would have suited the Fruitmarket so much!
The Electric String Orchestra has the biggest impact on ‘Killergram’ – on Reject the song is introduced with desolate ivory keys but tonight the orchestra adds high tension with dramatic back and forths.
‘Marriage Counseling’ and ‘Join the Club’ are Stanley Odd at their playful best; the former documenting the pre-divorce crisis talks between catty Caledonia and bratty Britannia, the latter taking the listeners on a name-drop-pit-stop-tour of Scotland’s nightspots, there are not many acts that can make audiences dance and laugh simultaneously.
The robotic scales in the introduction to ‘Get out ma Headspace’ get the biggest crowd reaction so far; the chorus is catchy and delivered as a call and respond.
The ‘body of work’ verse(s) of the song is anticipated by many and gets the reception it deserves: “Finger on the pulse/ I wear my heart on my sleeve/ Fell head over heels and I missed a beat/ I’ve been venting my spleen/ ‘Till I’m dead on my feet/ Passing each day by the skin of my teeth/ I put my neck on the line … what do you know about my body of work?”
That is not even half of that sequence and Stanley Odd make it look easy – and fun.
New single ‘Carry Me Home’ stands out as down tempo and contemplative in comparison to the rest of the set.
Vocalist Veronika Electronika is captivating during the performance; her singing is soothing as she repeats the title, perfectly matching the defeated tone of the track.
At a Stanley Odd concert listening with intent isn’t a choice it’s an expectation but live some words are inevitably going to go amiss amongst the frenetics, some witty lines go unnoticed.
I’m left craving the concert documented: I want the words to keep, I want the pages illustrated, I want it cover to cover.
Words: Leonie Colmar
Photos: Ann-Margaret Campbell