Cambridge Corn Exchange
Sunday 28 September 1997
My first Capercaillie concert, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. And fortunately this time there were none of the Cambridge Corn Exchange 's infamous sound system problems, which marred part of the 1996 Clannad concert . But I did think the balance between vocals and instrumental was slightly wrong -- the vocals got drowned out on a couple of occasions. (This is probably due to me being more used to the unnatural clarity of CDs, though.)
This is the tour to accompany their new album, Beautiful Wasteland , so they performed several tracks from it. They were accompanied for a few songs by an African duo, who also sang a marvelous unaccompanied lyrical duet in the "Bubi" language. (I think that's what it was called -- but I tried looking it up in a book of African languages afterwards, and couldn't find it. If anyone knows the correct name, do please let me know .) Unfortunately, I couldn't find a Programme Guide -- the merchandising seemed restricted to CDs and sweatshirts -- and I didn't catch the name of the duo, but I definitely recommend them. [Aug 1998: Vince Bibby, another Capercaillie fan, emailed me to say the duo was Sibeba .]
As for the warm-up act, I instantly forgot his name, so I can't warn you against him. All I can say is, for a singer-songwriter, he's an okay pianist.
Most of the performance comprised the toe-tapping instrumental jigs and reels, with superb performances from the flute and fiddle, and the highly complex and fast Gaelic "puirt a beul" or "mouth music" (traditionally unaccompanied Scottish songs, for singing on the Sabbath when the puritans frowned on the playing of instruments, but Capercaillie perform them accompanied). There were a few of their slower songs, but anyone not familiar with Capercaillie's repetoire might think from this concert that they are predominately a "cheerful music" group. Personally, I like their more melancholy work, too, and would have liked to have heard more of it. But I still really enjoyed what they did perform.
The audience was definitely appreciative -- there were two encores. For the first, they performed a cracking rendition of a Delirium album song "Coisich, a Rùin" with its rousing refrain "hù il oro", followed by several reels. For the second, it was yet more reels, and a song from their Sidewaulk album: "Both Sides of the Tweed". This call for freedom "Let the love of our land's sacred rights/To the love of our people succeed" and mutual respect "Let friendship and honour unite/And flourish on both sides the Tweed" has been given a new significance since the recent Scottish devolution "yes-yes" referendum result -- the River Tweed forms part of the border between Scotland and England.
Once the uninspired warm-up was out of the way, this was an excellent evening's music.
reviewed 4 October 1997