The Delgados/Arab Strap: Glasgow Old Fruitmarket

Arab Strap play tracks from their new 'The Red Thread' LP, while The Delgados say goodbye to 'The Great Eastern'...

“Looks like this might be a mistake” offers Aidan Moffat. Maybe. Celtic Connections – essentially a folk festival – is expanding its horizons. But maybe booking these legendary Falkirk pissheads is going too far?

In fact, the boys (just Aidan and Malcolm, in acoustic mode) seem strangely sober tonight, perhaps due to they’re sharing a bottle of water, and the audience – a mix of Strap fans of old and slightly bemused folkies – seem happy enough to see them. Having got over the disappointing ‘Elephant Shoe’ album the boys celebrate their return to Glasgow with a mix of tracks from ‘Philophobia’ and newie ‘The Red Thread’. And tonight’s set bodes well for the future as the songs from the forthcoming album stand up well without the layered instrumentation usually afforded them. So, stripped-down, ‘The Devil’ and ‘Amor Veneris’ work just as well as ‘Packs Of Three’ and ‘Soaps’. Welcome back then.

Delgado’s bassist Stuart Henderson arrives onstage carrying what appears to be the result of a successful raid on an off-licence. Looks like we’re in for a long one, but at least we know what happened to Arab Strap’s rider. This is something of a farewell to ‘The Great Eastern’, being perhaps the last time the band will play it in its entirety, and they’re going out on style – 15 musicians onstage including tubular bells, brass, and a couple of string quartets. Overkill?

Oddly, no. This is the lavish production that Dave Friddman brought to the album finally made flesh – the sweeping strings of ‘Knowing When To Run’ introduce the entourage and from there it’s a journey through that strange land where Mercury-approval meets the Peel show. There are a couple of nods to ‘Peloton’, though these perhaps understandably work less well with the big production, although ‘Blackpool’ is a rumbling biting beast of a song which will still be giving the folkies nightmares.

The band finally depart after a majestic ’13 Gliding Principles’ where past meets present perfectly. Nope, in the Chemikal Underground camp, they’re getting things just right.

Stuart McHugh