Blazin' Fiddles, with Cristina Pato |
at Fest Noz 2004,
De Montfort Hall,
(11 June 2004)
Blazin' Fiddles was first on stage for the June 11 Fest Noz performance at De Montfort Hall. The Scottish band consists of four fiddlers (the fifth, Allan Henderson, was absent), a guitarist (Marc Clement) and keyboard player (Andy Thorburn). The set started with a bang with the lively and very fast-paced "Kenny MacDonald's Jig." The interaction between fiddlers and the other musicians was superb and the tight playing was breathtaking as it was through the whole set. The slower numbers allowed all four fiddlers to display individual lyricism, too.
Catriona Macdonald's solo set was equally impressive and included "Shetland Reels" from her recent album Bold. Her controlled Shetland-style fiddling was inspiring. Other solo sets from Iain MacFarlane and Bruce MacGregor were played in a more expansive style and at tremendous pace. Perhaps the greatest sensitivity was shown by Aidan O'Rourke, whose tunes were complemented by some jazzy keyboard accompaniment.
There was no doubt that these four fiddles sang. What impressed me too was that this set was played at a good volume, unlike a couple of Irish bands I have seen recently where the sound seemed muted and thin in comparison. The acoustics and lighting were everything you would expect from a concert hall.
If I complimented Blazin' Fiddles for playing at volume, then it may seem churlish to say that Galician Cristina Pato's band played far too loud! This was, however, the loudest set of any band I have heard this year, even compared to the impressive volume of bands like Oi Va Voi and Ali Slimani.
The reliance on over-amplification was the only sign of inexperience, though, by this brilliant young gaita (bagpipe) player. She had assembled a lively band -- drums, percussion, bass, guitar, keyboards and vocals -- that created a distinctive "world music" sound. There is no doubting Pato's exuberance, energy and fine playing -- this was a turbo charged set in every sense. A weakness was some over dominance by the guitar, whereas quieter numbers concentrating on vocals were the highlight.
Pato is a name to look for at festivals in the future ... although hopefully with a diminished volume level!
Overall, the attendance at this event proved rather disappointing, and in the large hall there was a big gap between the stage and tables. Although this did attract some dancers, especially for Pato, it meant many of the audience were somewhat detached from the proceedings.