Playing only a handful of shows in the wake of the March release of their second album together (The Most Important Place In The World) Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat have for tonight become part of the Edinburgh Fringe prior to September dates in Kirkcaldy, Glasgow and Aberdeen & others (details of those here).
Having seen neither performer in any capacity before, a straight rendition of elements from the current album and its predecessor (2011’s Everything’s Getting Older) were where initial expectations were leaning. What was presented, however, was a show of great subtlety and at times near sublime stream of consciousness as Moffat’s characteristic wordplay was delivered over the mellifluous jazz of Wells and the other players.
Teasing the pause in the middle of 'Vanilla' out to seemingly twice it's recorded length and playing 'The Eleven Year Glitch' less like the album version (compared at times to the Pet Shop Boys according to Moffat) were just two examples of the fun being had with the repertoire tonight. Identifying with the ambivalence of locals to the festival by stating he’s always felt Edinburgh to be somewhere best avoided in August unless being paid and summing the month-long experience up succinctly with just the word “Jugglers” and a shudder, were in themselves enough to win over any remaining doubters.
Is Aidan Moffat more relevant than Robert Burns in this day and age? Having never had much time for the latter I’m probably in a poor position to judge but I expect those present tonight who’ve seen him previously have seldom been party to a better performance from him. Relaxed, chatty, honest and self-deprecating he was a man entirely comfortable in his surroundings and at one with the warm and appreciative crowd, aided no doubt by the excellent sound enjoyed by the band (most notably the trumpet player). Even breaking his snare drum near the end of the show did little to dampen his mood and he was soon off stage and chatting away with fans at the merchandise table on the way out of the hall. Having encored with ‘We’re Still Here’ it’s no understatement to say that everyone in the hall tonight left feeling very glad that that remains the case.
As the doors were a little late in opening tonight and the queue stretched down the stairs and out the front door Kathryn Joseph was already a couple of numbers in to her set by the time I arrived at the back of the hall. Her’s was a downbeat opening set for what, at that time, was in prospect a dourly entertaining gig yet her breathy, angst-filled vocals accompanied by sparse musical arrangements which meandered largely along the one path before petering out failed to really interest me, although the majority of the crowd seemed to enjoy what they were getting.