Celtic Connections: Francois & the Atlas Mountains at The Arches, 30/1/15

Unfortunately proceedings don’t get off to the finest of starts tonight as a glacial paced dinner service in an over booked restaurant means I miss opening act, Kid Canaveral: my subsequent leaving behind of my bag in the taxi doesn’t help my case either.

It must be ten minutes until headliners Francois & the Atlas Mountains are due on stage and the excitement in the room is palpable, and with vantage points limited to the very back of the room its clear this evening’s gig is one of the most eagerly anticipated of the Celtic Connection programme.

People are already dancing before the band takes the stage and the atmosphere becomes carnival-esque when eventually they do.

However, the band resist the pull of the revelry and choose to open with the swooning ‘Fancy Foresight’, a yearning ballad that sets faces smiling with its irresistible harmonies, syncopated beats and sweet synths.

What follows is a textbook example of mutual appreciation between performer and audience, with both parties clearly revelling in the reciprocated energy.

The set is mainly comprised of songs from 2014’s almost universally praised Piano Ombre, with songs like the irrepressible ‘La verite’ and enchanting ‘The Way to the Forest’ serving as standouts, which is saying something considering the quality of tonight’s performance.

Indeed it is hard to overstate just how well the show is received, as the end of each song is met with a cacophony of applause, especially from what is obviously a very loyal fan-base toward the front.

Although, despite the appreciation of the crowd, what I find most refreshing is the passion with which the band conducts themselves, even interspersing some tribal dance shapes into their set.

Having seen many a poseur fronted, self-important act over the years, this all comes as welcome, and joyous, change.

Words: Brendan Sloan

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