Gig Review: Headland + Isla Stout @ The Priory

by Josh Adams (@jxshadams)

Celebrating the launch of their debut single When Stars Collide, Headland joined forces with solo artist Isla Stout to sell out The Priory based solely on the strength of their unique mix of celtic rock and modern pop sensibilities. A last-minute venue change from Broadcast did not seem to slow down the Glaswegian seven-piece at their very first gig – hopefully, the start of many more to come. Before even a note was struck or sang, it was worth noting the diversity in age of the crowd, from teenagers to the elderly, which only served to highlight the broad appeal of Headland‘s music.

The opening act came in the form of the aforementioned Isla Stout. Whilst her folk covers of pop hits (from classics to contemporary numbers such as Ring of Fire and Skinny Love) were charming, if not spellbinding, the real magic lay in her own original content that she performed that evening that seemed to have everyone in the room silent in awe. If that is the direction Stout continues to head in, we will be hearing her name a lot more in Scotland throughout the year.

The recent nationwide revival in folk music, rescued from the clutches of pensioner pub bands across the country, has been a somewhat surprising yet welcome return in Scotland’s music scene. It’s as if a young batch of new local heroes have started taking notes from their American contemporaries and realised that fusing traditional instrumentation with modern pop hooks and songwriting can lead to great success in the charts. Now numerous groups, such as Skerryvore, are seeing triumphs in their careers, and up steps Headland to become the latest band to follow suit.

What makes Kieran Ferguson et al. stand out from the crowd is the dynamic interplay between the male voices and the female voices of the seven-piece, allowing for greater melodic variation in terms of the harmonies, and this was especially true on cuts such as When Stars Collide and Float On The Ocean. Another highlight was the tasteful guitar playing of Cameron Wilson, who added colourful flourishes and appropriate solos to most of Headland’s tunes with a slick, rock tone.  If anything could have been better from a performative or technical standpoint, it was that the rhythm section could have been punchier to emphasise the strong grooves that hold the group together, and the song structures could have been toyed with more experimentally to allow for extended solos in the folk tradition.

Alas, I’m nitpicking. By the time the band rolled out a few fun covers of Folsom Prison Blues and Wagon Wheel that elicited mass singalongs across the venue, before an encore of a reprise of When Stars Collide, you would have been forgiven for forgetting that this was Headland‘s first-ever concert together with all seven members. Exceptionally tight and acing what they do well, the future seems bright for the group based all on this lone concert.

 

 

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