Opening act, filling in at short notice for Leo Blanco who was stranded in Boston due to problems with red tape, was a duo of Jamie McMenemy on bouzouki and Soïg Siberil on guitar. There was nothing wrong with their set of Scottish and Breton instrumental pieces, but nothing about it really grabbed my attention.
Headliners for the night were Keltic Tales, led by brothers Gildas and Jean-Baptiste Boclé. The first thing I’d say about them is that the name is exceptionally misleading: this wasn’t folk music, it was full-on jazz-rock but with uillean pipes where most bands would have a saxophone. I think they’d have been fine as a support band, but just lacked the final spark to be completely successful as headliners. They were all fine players, particularly Gildas Boclé on bass (whether he was playing a lead line or accompanying the others) and 18-year old drummer Archibald Ligonniére, but they just lacked a bit of individual personality. Keyboard player Jean-Baptiste Boclé occasionally switched from organ to a synthesizer with a vibraphone interface, but apart from a slight difference in attack it didn’t sound any different from a keyboard-driven synthesizer. It would have given them a richer range of sounds if he’d just played a standard set of vibes. Tommy Smith joined them for the last couple of numbers, and his tenor gave a much needed increase in expressiveness to the sound.
Review in the Scotsman. The concert also got a three-star review in the Herald, but that doesn’t seem to be available online.