Monday, 13 November 2017


This article was originally published in The Scotsman in 2014.

Ryder Cup Gala Concert, SSE Hydro, Glasgow

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Presumably united by their shared passion for golf, a conveyor belt of stars launched the Ryder Cup tournament at Gleneagles with this slick display of corporate professionalism. Held in Glasgow's vast Hydro, and overseen by the creative director behind the 2012 Olympics closing ceremony, it was never in any danger of being mistaken for a thrilling rock 'n' roll show.

Rather, it was a politely ordered carnival aimed at golf's chief demographic: white, middle-class, middle-aged sport fans. Only one name on the bill defied those narrow parameters, more of whom later.

With a proud nod towards Scotland's eventful year so far, the first half was waterlogged with homegrown acts. Playing before a curiously sparse crowd – the auditorium didn't fill up until after the interval – the zygote likes of Twin Atlantic and Nina Nesbitt didn't stand a chance. But at least they set the evening's pattern: play a couple of potential crowd-pleasers, then exit quickly.

Dundee's Danny Wilson went one better by reforming after 25 years solely to perform their greatest hit, Mary's Prayer. Unless they're planning a comeback, I'll wager that's the briefest reunion in pop history.

Old pros Eddi Reader and Midge Ure – without whom no mainstream Scottish hootenanny is complete – took no risks with, respectively, a patriotic ode to Scotland and a full-throated Vienna. The latter received the first ovation of a very long night, the crowd presumably astounded that a man resembling Mr Burns from The Simpsons could still sing with such gusto.

Billed as a celebration of Scottish music and culture, the pre-finale highlights came, not from the pop sphere, but via spirited readings from Scottish Opera stars Andrew McTaggart and Nadine Livingston. The less said about host Des Clarke's woeful deep fried heroin hack material, the better.

He was replaced in part two by the more personable James Nesbitt, Edith Bowman and Fred MacAulay, who grabbed the crowd's attention by introducing the US and European golf teams (plus their wives/partners) to the stage. I felt like a tired, bored six-year-old at a wedding.

Two hours later, during which the likes of Texas dutifully phoned it in, the evening finally caught fire with a joyous set from disco/funk legend Nile Rodgers. Le Freak and Good Times were like a gift of golden tickets at the end of an interminable visit to a textile factory. 

An unlikely instance of genius transcending its beige surroundings.

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