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'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