Rose Room, Arlington Baths, Glasgow, Friday June 8 ***
They may have opened to members in 1870 but the Arlington Baths’ West End Festival gig last night was the first concert in its 142-year history. Anyone who inferred from the festival programme that they might be sitting round the pool watching the band perform was in for a surprise/shock as the hour-long performance actually took place in the cosy bar where the band looked set to contend with noisy weans, diners and oldies out for a Friday night pint.
From the off, however, this Quintet of the Hot Club of France inspired quartet grabbed the attention of the punters and held on to it for most of the gig. Their stock in trade is jaunty, unpretentious, feelgood, gypsy jazz and their not-so secret weapon; the element which elevates it above what it would otherwise be, is Seonaid Aitken who sings in a ladylike style that contrasts with the passion of her more reckless-sounding violin playing which is dynamic and occasionally dazzling.
Indeed, whenever the attention of the audience began to wane – unsurprisingly, given that the punters hadn’t paid for tickets and were (children aside) somewhat the merrier for the cheap bar – it was Aitken who drew it back. In a programme, and genre, dominated by fast or mid-tempo tunes, it was the ballads which stood out. Blues in My Heart was a stylishly arranged and executed example of Rose Room at its best, with lead guitarist Tom Watson serving up a particularly groovy solo and Aitken’s vocals a delight.
Ditto for the concert’s stand-out Don’t Worry ‘Bout Me on which the gentle swing of Watson’s and Tam Gallagher’s guitars plus Jimmy Moon’s bass proved the perfect setting for her dreamy voice.
Catch them in a full concert at Oran Mor on June 22.
First published in The Scotsman, Saturday June 9