Celtic Connections: Admiral Fallow, Hannah Lou Clark at The Old Fruitmarket, 31/1/16

As Celtic Connections winds onwards bringing traditional folk, country and world music to Scotland’s musical capital, where is more appropriate to catch a show than the home of the Scottish Music centre and its attached venue The Old Fruitmarket?

Tonight’s main act are embedded about as deeply in Glasgow’s alternative music scene as it’s possible to be, playing dozens of shows over the past couple of years and releasing their third album in 2015.

The Old Fruitmarket itself is a grand location for a show with balconies on three sides, but it’s a tribute to how far Admiral Fallow have come that they don’t seem overawed by the whole thing.

The evening’s support act, Hannah Lou Clark, looks awfully lonely on such a big stage, but she makes up for it with crunchy guitar and foot-stomping garage rock, ending with ‘It’s Your Love’, a crisp shot to the system, which channels Dry-era PJ Harvey.

It’s not immensely innovative, but for a young artist there are hints of a promising talent.

Opening with two tracks from their slow burn third album Tiny Rewards, the band really kick into gear with the rollicking ‘Guest of the Government’ from 2012’s excellent Tree Bursts in Snow.

With the album covers projected onto the back wall, this may well be the grandest location these songs have ever been aired in and there’s no question that they sound huge enough to fill the room.

The sketches from their debut Boots Met My Face are still their most intimate and personal tracks, but the band have gained a new appreciation of how to deliver them to a large room, tastefully embellishing the tracks with increased dynamics and stretching them out until they reach the back of the room.

Only the spectral ‘Four Bulbs’ doesn’t benefit from this treatment, being stripped back to just frontman Louis Abbott’s acoustic picking and his five band members sharing vocals.

This is fine, but it comes across as a little portentous in the context of a set, which while not short of emotive moments, works best when the band embrace the scale of their triumph.

Nonetheless the frontman is still a charming presence, amiably fluffing the lines to the heart-breaking ‘Subbuteo’ and telling tales of playing to ten people in a pub in Bristol.

As the night draws to a close Abbott encourages the crowd to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ for Paul Savage, producer for all three Admiral Fallow records and it doesn’t feel like a rock star affection, just a simple gesture for a mate and the crowd merrily sing along.

Returning to the stage for the encore in a green retro football jersey, Abbott elicits some good-natured boos from the crowd, but ‘Isn’t This World Enough?’ gets the crowd clapping and it’s false finale is possibly their most genuinely thrilling moment.

Soon Glasgow might be running out of venues big enough.

Words: Max Sefton

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