Let's start off by saying that, as far as I'm concerned, any band with a bagpiper in has to be good, but one of the problems with having a piper in the band, and sometimes Breabach has two, is balancing the sound, so it was loud. Not so bad in a large hall or out in the open at a festival but in a small venue like the David Hall not so good. It also means that, unless both equipment and engineer are particularly good then the sound can be rather muddy. So it was last night with various members of the band being drowned out by the wave of sound as the piper(s) wound themselves up and let rip.
Calum MacCrimmon is the main piper and he plied his trade manfully, but
I can't say I was too upset on the occasions when he switched to various
whistles, on which he showed that he was capable of gentle expression as
Donal Brown mainly plays whistles, although he can blow a pretty mean pipe as well, and suffered somewhat from the sound problems. Whilst not being the best stepdancer we've seen, his interludes at the front were well supported by the band and he entertained well as such performers usually do.
Patsy Reid has a very interesting style of fiddling which goes well with the overall ethos of the band and has a voice that I can only describe as fragile but strong, and I know that doesn't make sense but can think of no other way to put it.
Ewan Robertson eats well and his guitar playing is adequate, at first I was a little disappointed with him but when he came to his solo spot all doubts were removed. To my mind June Tabor sings 'The King of Rome' perfectly but Ewan, whilst using the same arrangement, managed to imbue the song with exactly the right amount of male Northern pathos, there were a few moist eyes in the audience (including mine).
The little double bass player, who's name eludes me, isn't on the website and wasn't mentioned in the programme, plays a fine tune and keeps a bass drum rhythmn on it to perfection, he also grows an excellent beard.
Overall I felt something was missing, the evening disappointed somewhat, the band doesn't make up to the sum of its parts musically and it needs a better stage show; there were far too many gaps whilst instruments were tuned and there were too few audible intros to the numbers. But they are young and I suspect haven't toured together much so the banter that becomes part of any act is slight and the quips that get built into shows through shared experiences has yet to emerge. They, and their sound, will have to improve considerably before we would consider seeing them again, especially in a small venue, I suspect things would be very different on the festival circuit.