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Solo performance from Edinburgh singer songwriter Adam Holmes showcases new Dreamweaver album song at Eden Court in Inverness

By Margaret Chrystall

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Adam Holmes solo, support from Justboy

Eden Court

5 stars

An Adam Holmes gig is always an event – maybe after a gap caused by a pandemic, when people are afraid of being in a room with each other, it is even more of an event.

Adam Holmes, on his own for solo gig.
Adam Holmes, on his own for solo gig.

The moment when your courage comes back and you find you are very much delighted to be watching a man with a guitar entertaining everyone, is quite special.

In the OneTouch as Adam Holmes contrasted his last gig there – when lots of other musicians had played with him – with just his voice and his guitar, strangely the simplicity just added to the power.

First, there was another lesson in simplicity from Adam’s support, Justboy – a manifestation of Inverness musician Dale Sutherland, who will have an EP out from this solo project at the end of the month (Nov 26).

He started with one of the songs from it, Swallow My Pain, drawing us in to him with a quiet vocal that pulled you to move closer, to try to catch all the lyrics.

He has an arresting voice, light and plaintive when it needs to be – and in a short, perfectly-timed set, he chose to finish with Better Off, his single from January, where his voice helps the lyrics plead that a break-up is better for both sides – “I’ll be better off/You’ll be better off” – though the pain is hypnotically reinforced by the chorus.

A cover of Radiohead’s Fake Plastic Trees was an object lesson in how to use a song that complements your own writing, but also shows off your voice at the same time.

Dale had confessed after the first song that he’d written himself a setlist and then forgotten it, but adding in EP title track Head Sick and I Held Back, to the songs already mentioned, made a dynamically-contrasting and effective showcase for anyone catching Justboy for the first time.

And it was a full score again for subtly embedding into his short set plenty of ways people can find him and his music – from Facebook and Bandcamp to, being “the pretentious type”, offering a, these days quirky, extra-level cassette format.

And for those who heard Justboy, also check out the contrast of heavier alt rock band Alkanes with Dale their frontman.

Adam Holmes has a teasing sense of humour – “Hello, Stirling!” he greeted his Inverness crowd.

He opened the set with People Come/ People Go, one of his most universal songs that sounds as if it could have been written any time between now and a hundred years ago, any place from middle America to Scotland, and which comes with its own sigh of calm as the repeated "Everything's gonna be alright' chorus kicks in and you settle back in your seat for the rest of the set.

His between-song banter is sharp and dry and his stories often took you to surreal places, a few featuring his toddler daughter Rosa.

Speaking after playing the slow, beautiful Oh My God, from 2013's album Heirs And Graces, Adam said his favourite story about the song had been one of his musician friends putting it on while kids played "pass the parcel very slowly".

Adam Holmes' gig included sogs from new album Dreamweaver.
Adam Holmes' gig included sogs from new album Dreamweaver.

Or before playing us his new single I Saw The Devil from his latest album Dreamweaver, Adam confessed: "When Rosa's mother was pregnant, I did a think I think is quite common, I had a kind of mental breakdown ... " He revealed he had rented a flat which he turned into a recording studio." He described it as a kind of hippy commune with "a guy doing ice sculptures and naked neds running round".

He described another song from Dreamweaver, If You Ever Needed Me, as being inspired by "the mundane beautiful" experience of raising a three-year-old.

And "the mundane beautiful" is a description that works for many of the deceptively simple-seeming hummable tunes and anthems that could almost be hymns and that glitter through an Adam Holmes set.

He played us Won't You Come Out Drinking With Me, for the Edinburgh pub where he says he got a lot of his music education – and I Can't Be Right, the first song he ever wrote, at 15.

"Well, the first song that wasn't completely pish!" he amended.

One for his dad, Cutting Loose and before Aviemore, which he told us would be the last one as he wouldn't do an encore, he said: "Thank you for making the effort to come out tonight, it has been really beautiful. Luckily, through the pandemic I have had a solid community. It's been difficult for many different reasons and I'm glad this community is back," he said, going into his last song.

As always, it had come too soon. But who else's gig would you want to remember the beginning of the end (possibly) of Covid with? MC

Adam's latest album Dreamweaver is out now – and find out more about Treehouse, his new private members' club on a monthly subscription with exclusives – all album and Treehouse info here: adamholmesmusic.co.uk

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