Gigs in churches are just ace. No one talks, no one wanders around and gets in the way, everyone’s seated, not drunk and the artists are more likely to play at their best ‘cos of all the upturned faces at their feet. Malcolm Middleton seems very nervous about the whole affair, though, even though it’s a support slot. It’s not a nervousness in performance, particularly, more a nervousness that God will strike him down for saying “shite”, “pish”, and “we’re all gonna die” like a quiet shaman. Nothing like that happens, thankfully, and we’re treated to some spirited woe and a beautiful version of Devil & The Angel, leaving the audience several times warmer in this nippy old crypt than when he arrived.
James Yorkston shares with Middleton a similar wariness about language and content, but unlike Middleton a real, performance nervousness that sees him bash the mic stand and forget his words in the first song. “Does anyone know how to play Steady As She Goes?” he later asks, bashfully. Ah well. From then on, though, it’s admirable festive stuff, with several highlights from the recent When The Haar Rolls In LP getting a welcome leg-stretch. Particularly endearing is the sweet and luxurious B’s Jig (in which the accordion and clarinet blend timbres like the separate elements of a Fruit Corner), and recent single Tortoise Regrets Hare, which features japesy contributions from Pictish Trail and Rozi Plain.
Throughout, though, it’s clear to see that Yorkston’s ease as a performer is what we’re all enthralled by, and the way he interacts with his hermetically tight band as well as the audience is a lesson in sympathetic control. As he gently crescendos all the way to the climax of the obligatory Shipwreckers, it’s hard not to be swept away by the conflict of grandiose religiosity trading blows with the defiantly homespun in this most glorious of surroundings.