Live review: Three Blind Wolves at ABC2, 14/09/11

Five years ago I started to frequent an open-mic night at Oran Mor. Every week an unassuming lad from Clydebank would wander on and completely steal the limelight. After a few years the venue saw his first experiments with a band. As I walk into the ABC tonight the words ‘Three Blind Wolves’ are up above me in foot high letters. I’ve seen them before of course, but somehow that sign makes their arrival as a band complete.

First up is Washington Irving, and the folk heavy group makes a terrific racket, especially when all the voices belt out in unison at the end of their boisterous songs. A bit of flute and mandolin give them something a bit different too, making them a fun watch for half an hour and notching up the anticipation for the headliners.

I’m torn writing about Three Blind Wolves. I like the band a lot and the first album really is a terrific listen – but live there is still something lacking. Throughout the set there is a lack of bite, a lack of tightness amongst the musicians onstage. It’s certainly not the fault of the songs, which are well crafted and interesting. It’s perhaps illustrative that when Ross Clark played this for Rokbun in the eaves of Oran Mor he took our breath away. Tonight, now arranged for the band, the song lacks the impact and soul it had solo.

But perhaps ‘Hotel’ is a better example. On record it snaps to a strict tempo and sounds fresh and immediate. Tonight it’s nearly there, somehow muted and sluggish, but it’s the quality of the song that wins out. The live sound might disappoint a little but the enthusiasm from the audience is there as they sing back the lines and dance their way through the song.

In Ross Clark the band also have a frontman that can really work a room. Perhaps it’s the years of trying to win over audiences in there aforementioned open-mics that have done it but Clark gets the crowd onside from the first moment. When he says sing they sing, when he says dance they dance. It also helps to have a voice as strong and commanding as his, especially on ‘Emily Rose’ where it seems to fill up the whole venue all on its own.

The night ends, as has become custom, with the band in the centre of the crowd playing an acoustic sing-along. The good feeling towards the band is clear and the new songs from the forthcoming album sound intriguing. Three Blind Wolves are a band that have steadily built and improved from those beginnings. They’re next move will be well worth watching.

Words: Alastair Mitchell

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