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Friday, January 24, 2014

Live Review: RM Hubbert with Aidan Moffat, Mitchell Library, Glasgow (21/01/2014)

Following RM Hubbert brings numerous benefits, among them the opportunity to experience the power of his music in offbeat, widely disparate settings. In less than two years as a convert, Glasgow's flamenco extraordinaire has drawn me to arts centers, great pubs on lively Friday nights and even a fucking launderette - and that's having missed the "play for food" deals which punctuated his early years. This show - organised as part of the city's annual Celtic Connections festival - however, was something of a crème de la crème. For one, the sold out Mitchell Library represented his biggest hometown headliner to date, and what's more was opened by long-time acquaintance Aidan Moffat, a handy bonus once the time came for their distinguished collaboration, 'Car Song.' Moffat, though wasn't the only guest, with former Delgado Emma Pollock checking-in for the scarcely heard 'Half Light,' and Scotland's Cairn String Quartet providing one-off backing to a smattering of familiar cuts.

Beguiling and frequently heartwrenching, Hubby's music hardly requires added emotional tug, but that's exactly what the ensemble supplied to the likes of 'Couch Crofting' and 'Slights' which took on fresh, deeply evocative forms in their new, luscious skin. The trick culminated even more handsomely in the case of 'Bolt,' whose percussive snap and (relatively!) upbeat demeanor sounded fuller and more realised with extra instrumentation, and arguably even more deserving of its recent single status.

For me, though, the 39-year-old remains at his best as a lone performer, and marked though they were this was duly highlighted in the absence of company. 'Go Slowly' and 'Buckstacy,' another pair from latest LP Breaks & Bone, for instance, were utterly magnificent; the former's bass string stomp thriving in the lofty, reverberating room, the latter's optimistic beauty reveling in its stripped back late set slot, while Thirteen Lost & Found's 'For Joe' and its precursing backstory continue to rank among the most affecting live moments going. This longevity is perhaps what impresses me the most about Hubbert, and his gigs in particular. No matter how many times you hear the songs, sample the chatter and marvel at his playing, the effect never seems to wear off, which is why, barely 12 hours later I'm already anticipating his next appearance.

Surely enough, the same can be said of opener Moffat's solo set, a virtual comedy routine every bit as entertaining as stints with various bands and musical partners. Comprised chiefly of spoken word and prose, the former Arab Strap man's half-hour stay was littered with wicked humour, unheard material and (stop the press!) lots and lots of sex and swearing, which was great - unless, of course, you were among the crowd members cradling children, in which case you can't say you weren't warned! After scathing iTunes reviews, a poem called 'Cunts,' 'Glasgow Jubilee' and an impassioned message to his two young offspring (the gist of which I won't be yielding), a exert from his upcoming children's book was a curious, yet overwhelmingly popular note on which to end, and ranked among the highlights of what was a special occasion for all concerned.

Setlist

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RM Hubbert
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Aidan Moffat
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