The Shee

Netherbow Theatre, Edinburgh

8 May 2015

The Netherbow Theatre is superb. It's a modern, purpose-built hall in the basement of the Scottish Storytelling Centre, not big, about 100 seats (maybe two-thirds full tonight) but with the perfect acoustic of that kind of hall, and with a proper rake to the seating that gives everybody a perfect view. Exactly the kind of place I want to be in to sit and appreciate music.

I sat somewhere near the middle of the second row, and with hindsight this wasn't the best choice, as the six members of The Shee are spread across the fairly wide stage and I can't actually watch all of them at the same time, and the way they pass around melodies and lead parts makes it difficult to decide where to look. (Ok, I'll come clean. The difficulty was remembering to look at someone other than the harpist. Well. You know.) Further back would have given a better view, ironically. But the feeling of being immersed in the sound, and feeling the low electro-harp notes through the soles of my feet, made the seat perfect.

It's difficult to know how to write a review of The Shee, because I don't know who it's for. With other bands I follow, I'm writing for other fans. When I post a review of Deep Purple on the fans' forum, I know that everybody who reads it will know the band and the songs and I can concentrate just on my personal impressions.

But I don't know who this is for, and so I feel compelled to explain why I love this band, and justify why I'm going to call this the best concert I've ever seen. I see a lot of bands live, but there are not that many who are worth a day off work, a train trip to Edinburgh, and a hotel stay. The Shee is one of them.

What do I love about them? I love versatility in music, and The Shee have that. They start with a traditional American song, follow it with a long and complex intrumental, and move on to Gaelic "mouth music" (and if you don't know what this is, I'm not going to try to describe it; suffice to say it's ridiculous—the good kind of ridiculous). The set includes more songs of various types interspersed with energetic instrumentals.

I love instrumental brilliance, and all six members of The Shee are simply brilliant. All six instruments (flute, two fiddles, mandolin, accordian, electro-harp) are lead instruments, and I love the way one will be carrying a drone or rhythm line then suddenly soar above the others to take the melody. Their arrangements are never simple, there are constantly shifting tempos and dynamics, and they build up layers of harmony with different instrumental solos and combinations like... well, honestly, it's like watching a prog rock band. One which you can dance to. And while they never actually break into an improvised jam, there's a freshness to the live arrangements, enough that it's not just a sterile reproduction of their CDs. And while the instrumentals are phenomenal, the songs are no less important to the evening. They have three lead singers who take a couple or three songs each, but I'm also feeling recently that they are working better together to produce some beautiful harmony vocals.

With three albums of material to draw from, it's inevitable that in 90-odd minutes they're not going to play everything I want to hear, but I love everything they play and they include enough of my favourites (Tom Paine's Bones, Three Knights, Our Bottle, etc.) that I'm not going to complain. *cough*MacCrimmon's*cough*.

So was it really the best concert I've ever seen? Y—

("Come on, Dave, are you really going to tell us that it was as good as seeing a rock band you've loved for decades? Really equivalent to singing Smoke on the Water at 100 decibels at a Deep Purple gig?")

No. Not equivalent. Not the same atmosphere or adrenalin rush as a rock gig. But...

But sometimes you just want to sit and listen to beautiful music perfectly played. And when I come out of a gig humming Gaelic mouth music (because there's no way I can actually sing it) all the way back to the hotel, and all I want to do right now is find out where they're playing tomorrow and go and see them again...

Yes. Best concert I've ever seen. That's how I feel.

And I can answer who I'm writing this review for: for me. Because writing it tonight lets me relive the whole gig, and when I upload it to my web site tomorrow (when I'll no doubt be embarrassed by whatever I've just written, but I won't edit it because that wouldn't be honest) I'll relive it all over again, and again every time I read it.

Tun-ti tun-ti- tum-ti -tum ti-something about trousers, da de da de da de da ti-tum-ti tum. Best concert I've ever seen.

Oh God, I've had too much coffee today.

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