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Astrid and Ewan MacFarlane gig at Eden Court celebrates music of then and now


By Margaret Chrystall

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REVIEW:

Astrid and Ewan MacFarlane and friends

Eden Court, Inverness

5 stars

The long ago and far away of more innocent times seemed a theme of Astrid’s gig at Eden Court’s OneTouch on their Storm Sessions tour.

Astrid – Willie Campbell (left) and Charlie Clark.
Astrid – Willie Campbell (left) and Charlie Clark.

The band’s Willie Campbell and Charlie Clark riff on the natural banter of long-time friends and bandmates and it bubbles up as naturally as the harmonies that surge through Astrid songs old, like Distance, and new, like one of a few they treated us to on the night, a song so new it doesn’t have a title yet.

It might have been a new song, but it instantly revealed that special something that has always identified Astrid’s songs.

In this case one marker is the intriguing, confessional line ‘Will you remember this love, because you are not the one I’m thinking of – now…’.

And that ‘now’ – added at the end of a line almost as an afterthought, lingers, a word confidently added, just because.

Support came from Ewan MacFarlane, the name – and the face – vaguely familiar, slotting into place properly only when Ewan mentioned that he had frequented the Market Bar in Inverness back in the day in his time as frontman of Grim Northern Social.

He had only recently brought out his first solo album, he told us. But on the strength of the many songs from it on the setlist Always Everlong was worth the wait.

Opener Honey reintroduced you to the emotion-soaked rock voice that powered Grim Northern Social and with Ewan’s musician friends “Dougie and Lochy” on drums and bass, the songwriting skills honed by decades of crafting and sharing them with a live crowd kicked in. She Comes For The Kill oozed with seduction talk, Validated found Ewan performing solo, then Underneath Your Spell – sounding like a vintage chart hit with hooks and an instantly hummable chorus – brought the set to a climax with the story of an apparently willing submission – "Baby we got scars".

Always Everlong, Ewan's solo album.
Always Everlong, Ewan's solo album.

There was a feeling of euphoria from Willie and Charlie as soon as they hit the stage, maybe not surprising as they revealed Covid had meant their tour had been postponed three times.

The crowd seemed equally delighted to be there, though they were quiet, but applause was enthusiastic and singalong orders were loudly honoured.

And the set choices did everything to keep a smile on your face.

Modes Of Transport took you back as the opening song, then Storm Session song, Falling & Flying, brought things right up to date and was a thrilling demonstration to fans that the songwriting only gets stronger with time.

As Charlie told us, just six months ago Willie finally got to finish the song Opposites Meet, the current single’s B-side, which had been around, unfinished, for a long time. But in it past and present meld seamlessly.

Boston – "We called it that because I ripped off More Than A Feeling!" Willie grinned – Angel Of Death, Give Yourself Away (from 2019’s Fall, Dance, Stand), Wherever You Go That’s Where You Are, took us back to the beginning in Distance, written by Willie when he was just 17.

Astrid.
Astrid.

With latest single Through The Darkness a worthy final song to crown this joyous set, the encore was a dream choice.

Coming down off the stage to stand right in front of the audience in the front row, it was an unplugged treat.

Jane Hepburn Macmillan's fiddle sang out as the three musicians put their own quiet stamp on Big Star’s teen anthem Thirteen, Charlie turning to face Jane as she played a lovely solo, the song reviving other times, other versions of all of us. MC

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