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Time to be a Legend in your own Bella-time! Looking back at this year's Belladrum festival with highlights including Emeli Sande, Peat & Diesel, The Fratellis, Stiff Little Fingers, Christone Kingfish Ingram, Nile Rodgers & Chic and Helmsdale resident Edwyn Collins

By Margaret Chrystall

Nile Rodgers and Chic headlined on Saturday.
Nile Rodgers and Chic headlined on Saturday.

This year’s Belladrum got everyone to think big and get imaginations working on the theme of myths and legends.

Winged beasts rubbed feathered shoulders with Viking gods. Unicorns arrived on stilts or in blow-up pairs, two-woman Nessies walked the fields – even what looked like the Honey Monster (that costume must have been hot!) was raising his golden furry head in the Garden Stage arena. There was so much ingenuity and skill walking past for three days – all just to have a bit of fun.

One of the favourite of all debates starts once all the headliners have presented their main stage sets.

Thursday night’s main act EMELI SANDE divided people. Her current love of life – she mentioned her partner was with her – enhanced the sense of freedom and power in her strong vocal with oceans of emotion in tracks like her opener It Hurts. That power some people seemed to think was pushing her voice further than it wanted to go. But the buzz of joy from her performance was unmistakeable.

Maybe SAM ‘Star Man’ RYDER crying off from his Thursday Hot House headlining set as the first news to hit you on arrival first thing was gutting – he will be there next year. But from the size of the crowd that headed over to his slot to catch inspired-choice replacements PEAT & DIESEL, it was no tragedy!

On Friday VAN MORRISON technically headlined, though played to his own curfew time a little earlier with his band of star musicians. Out in his powder-blue suit and straw hat, he hit us with a harmonica solo, then sang us Dangerous from his new album What’s It Gonna Take, gradually moving into the past. Then fast, fast, fast and way, way back to the earliest days of the Northern Irish singer’s incredibly long-delivering career to his 1964 cover with his band Them of Baby, Please Don’t Go, B-side Gloria!

Christone Kingfish Ingram.
Christone Kingfish Ingram.

It was the vintage good times always fired out by THE FRATELLIS that people were flocking to see after Van on Friday night – though loads of people talked afterwards about the inner struggle of deciding between that and just 20 minutes later, both the Hot House headliners STIFF LITTLE FINGERS and at the Grassroots, blues prodigy CHRISTONE KINGFISH INGRAM.

At 23, Christone is a stunning prospect. Both his voice – deep, bassy and dripping with emotion – and his virtuoso guitar-playing, mean the blues have a new hero who also embraces rock, the attitude and honesty of rap, but also honours the legacy of his own heroes, such as Muddy Waters and BB King.

He writes songs about all of it – and played many from his Grammy-winning contemporary blues album 662, the postcode of his hometown Clarksdale, Mississippi.

During the set, he left the stage to go on a walkabout playing in the crowd. He got back up on stage to finish his set and for his own inspired cover of Hey Joe – including playing the strings with his teeth – before the longest applause I think I’ve ever heard at Belladrum.

Saturday night’s SHED SEVEN surely bagged my Shoulda Been Headliners award this year. Along with hyperactive frontman Rick Witter, everything about their matey, melody-fuelled good-time set reminded you how great a gig you get in their company.

But for 2022, NILE RODGERS & CHIC united the thousands packing the space to groove with no limits, as Nile ran us through a career-best of the songs the Chic brand had flowed out for others. Was the song-medley format a tiny bit cheesy, as one punter thought? Maybe. But that band, those songs …

Only the call to catch up with former Orange Juice mainman and Helmsdale resident EDWYN COLLINS headlining the Grassroots stage, dragged you away.

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