Stornoway review – stirring farewell from the folk-pop foursome

Old Fruitmarket, Glasgow
Ten years together come to a celebratory end with moments of unplugged intensity, beguiling melodies and a rowdy Simple Minds cover

So far as reasons for band break-ups go, Stornoway singer/guitarist and birdsong enthusiast Brian Briggs’s preference for working as a nature reserve warden in South Wales has to rank near the milder end of the spectrum.

The folk-pop four-piece were barely out of school and university when the surprise success of their 2010 debut album Beachcomber’s Windowsill saw them take flight. Careers, studies and travels have since made it increasingly harder for them to focus on furthering the life of a band which in any case was never expected to last long outside an east Oxford garage rehearsal space. So they’ve decided to tie things off neatly with a celebratory farewell tour, ending a bountiful decade together with suitably good grace.

Upgraded from Oran Mor to the much larger Old Fruitmarket by popular demand, this show marks a final Scottish appearance for a band who have always been mostly well-received here, the Hebridean town of Stornoway being their namesake – and, as Briggs reports, the only tour destination where they’ve had bottles thrown at them.

Their audiences are typically much more polite, as exemplified best during three songs performed unplugged to pin-drop silence, including the exquisite Get Low, the beguiling melody and harmonies of which earn a round of applause that refuses to quit. Things get modestly rowdy with a cover of Simple Minds’ Don’t You Forget About Me, segued into the rushing, tumbling Watching Birds.

There could only be one way to send this rare species off back into the wild and it’s with the faultlessly winsome Zorbing, as embellished with the budget props of two giant balloons bouncing and soaring over the crowd’s heads.

• At Komedia, Brighton, 8 March. Box office: 0845 293 8480. Then touring.

• This article was amended on 8 March 2017. An earlier version referred to “Hebridean island” where “Hebridean town” was meant.


Malcolm Jack

The GuardianTramp

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