Heather Findlay

Oran Mor, Glasgow

16 January 2020

Getting to the end of a tour is a strange feeling. Heather will play one more show next week but it's honestly not possible for me to get to it, so this is the end for me, and it's a strange feeling, half happy, half sad. In the last week I have seen five shows by my favourite singer in the whole world. Each one has left something different in my memory. But tonight's was honestly the best of the five. It's a good place to finish.

I wasn't sure if I could write a review of this. For a start, every time Heather reminds me she reads these I freak out and get paranoid about what I should and shouldn't say. But if I don't say something, I'm doing a disservice to the venue and to the crowd, because they were outstanding, the best of the tour. So I'll just do what I always do, pretend Heather isn't going to read it, and be honest and say what I feel...

The venue at Oran Mor is a large room in the basement of what must have once been a church. It's a nice room, good size stage, plenty of space, and a perfect sound ... but I walked in tonight and saw chairs and tables had been set out, and my heart kind of sank a little. I like seated gigs—actually prefer them usually—but for the kind of energetic rock Heather has been playing on this tour, I thought seats might kill the atmosphere.

But my fears were completely unfounded. In fact, it's the best atmosphere of the tour. I'm not sure if it was the biggest crowd of tour, but it was certainly the loudest and most enthusiastic. Glasgow people, you are amazing. And I'm sure the band felt it too (well, Heather told me so after the gig) and that's got to affect how they play, and once again the energy and enthusiasm and sheer joy of playing flowing off the stage was just awesome.

Once again the Hughes Taylor band goes down really well. He (and his band) is phenomenal. He's a technical wizard on guitar, but more importantly plays with real feeling. If I ever got the chance to see him again, I'd jump at it.

Then Heather ...

I don't know. I've said it all so many times, you must be bored of reading it by now.

One thing that sitting down and being further back from the stage does is let you think about the songs more than when you're just being carried along by the energy of the performance. And these are all superb songs. I said at the beginning of the tour that I hadn't made an emotional connection with the songs on the new album, but now they all feel like old friends, and several reduce me to tears. Firefly is still the highlight of the set for me, it's just an incredible vocal performance and leaves me an emotional wreck. But every song works, every one sounds superb. I love the energy of Southern Skies as the opener. I love the Indian vibe of Face in the Sun, with the twelve-string guitar playing strange scales and all kinds of percussion going on and then the bass drum kicking up the intensity. The drumming in Winner falling on an unexpected beat, giving the song an unexpectedly clever twist without ever losing the danceable groove. The galloping Wild White Horses as the perfect set-closing song. And they play Lake Sunday, which makes me more happy than anything, the vocal is just so beautiful. And Unoriginal Sin is transformed into an epic of breathtaking intensity. And Firefly is the best thing ever, the crashing piano chords counterpointing the powerful but immensely moving vocal. The mix of twelve-string and six-string guitars. The versatility of the guitars in general: whether it's two acoustic, two electric, or one of each, and with either guitarist taking the lead role as the song demands. Heather also plays guitar on half the songs, and three guitars are the best thing ever. Hughes Taylor joins them for the final song, Wild White Horses, and the combination of Simon Snaize playing the riff on acoustic, Hughes echoing it on electric, and Martin Ledger playing all the twiddly bits is just awesome. The wealth of backing vocals—two male and two female—add depth to the choruses, Simon sings the Danny Bowes part on Just a Woman, Simon and Adriana Thomas (who is doing double duty as the Hughes Taylor drummer and Heather Findlay backing singer) combine to deliver the Bryan Josh part on Black Rain, and wring every bit of the angst and anger that the environmentally-conscious song requires. (How did I ever dislike this as a Mostly Autumn song?) The arrangements are just all perfect.

It's just all perfect. The band is superb, and Heather is perfect. Heather could have come on stage and just sung Firefly and gone home again and it would have been worth the trip to Glasgow to see and would have been the best concert I have ever seen. She's just that good.

And I know "best concert I have ever seen" has become kind of a joke, but it's also completely honest. It's how I feel in the moment I step out into the night air after a concert this magical, and replay all the songs and all the images and all the little moments that make live music so unique and special. And I walk home (or in this case, to my hotel) convinced, truly convinced, this has been the best night of my life. And it's how I feel again as I replay it all while I'm writing this review. That's why I need to write a review as soon as possible, to capture that feeling, that honesty. Tomorrow, I will be more objective, and remember other concerts that have been as good or better. But one thing won't change: tomorrow, and the next day, and for the rest of my life, I will tell you that Heather is the best singer in the world. That's true tonight and will be true always.

It's three o'clock in the morning and I'm not entirely sure what I've just written, but whatever it is I promise it's true. This was the best concert I've ever seen. I have no idea how many hundred miles I've travelled in the last week, but I would do it all again if I could. Every week.

I feel so lucky.