The night begins with a captivating performance from the wonderful Evie Waddell, ably accompanied by the accordion of Neil Sutcliffe. Their set includes songs in both Gaelic and Scots, as well as some British Sign Language, and the pair’s charming chemistry brings a smile to every face. Neil lends his voice to a couple of numbers, and together they sing in glorious harmony, breathing new life into the melodies of their ancestors. They end on a high with a deft display of step dancing from Evie, and by the time they are done, the crowd’s whistle is truly whetted.
After a short break, Madderam take to the stage for the first of their two sets, and instantly the applause is rapturous. They get the ball rolling with a lively instrumental, and not a foot in the room is still. Next up is Tiny Trains, a touching original penned by guitarist Johanna, which addresses the need to find room in one’s life for a new sibling. Another rousing instrumental is followed by Ebb and Flow, the reflective title track from their 2021 debut album, written by lead vocalist Eilidh.
Fiddler Hazel introduces a piece of her own composition, Entanglement – so named after the ‘entanglement’ of quantum physics – and thankfully a personal lack of quantum knowledge does nothing to hinder my enjoyment of this absorbing number. That Hazel manages to become entangled in her own microphone cable whilst introducing it is a delightful irony lost on no one.
This first set also includes Seaglass, a delicate piece nimbly led by harpist Laureline, as well as a splendid Gaelic reworking of Beatles’ classic Blackbird, featuring a lovely string arrangement from fiddler Eoghan. The set then reaches a climactic ending with Pound A Week Rise, a version of which Madderam released as a single back in 2020. Evidently the audience is familiar with this release, as many sing along, and thus ends the first set, not with a bang, but with a banger.
Following a brief interval, Madderam return for their second set, again to a thunderous reception. Whereas the first set contained predominantly material from the album, the second is comprised largely of new content, though is certainly none the worse for it. Highlights include another Johanna original Hundreds of Miles, as well as a Gaelic ‘spell song’ traditionally sung to rid a building of rats. A conspicuous absence of rodents only serves to confirm the song’s effectiveness. The set ends with a French number, De Que La Vent Soufflera, which Laureline sings enchantingly, before the band depart to a raucous ovation. Such is the fervour in the room that the band are compelled to return for an encore, which does nothing to quieten the ardent audience. After a final rollicking instrumental piece, Madderam leave the stage for the last time.
All in all, it was a fantastic performance and a joyous night. I cannot recommend an evening with Madderam highly enough. Nor would I deter anyone from checking out their brilliant album, Ebb and Flow. To be honest with you, I can’t wait to see them again!
[Charles Pring – he/him]
[Image credits: Madderam]