Much-maligned national arts branding exercise the Year of Creative Scotland, whose promotional film played between acts, may or may not have had an influence on the choice of main stage bands performing at this year’s international tourism magnet Edinburgh’s Hogmanay, but it’s been a long time – if ever – since the three-band bill was entirely comprised of Scots acts.
While other stages featured the likes of the Maccabees, Reverend and the Makers or Jools Holland-approved Scots folk act Lau, the headliners whose two-part performance straddled midnight and the typically spectacular fireworks over Edinburgh Castle were Simple Minds. It seemed initially to be a strange choice – the Glaswegian old-stagers retain much affection at home, but the still-recording band’s most notable recent contribution has been to remind the world of their formative five-album post-punk hipster era with the X5 box set.
In which case, the stage was set for a pleasant surprise. Singer Jim Kerr and guitarist Charlie Burchill, the only remaining founder members, are both now in their early ‘50s, but they play the role of elder rockers with a certain degree of gravitas and dignity. Both stylishly dressed (Kerr wore a dapper tartan scarf for the occasion), their only concession to the exaggerated reality of live performance was Kerr’s energetic but not overplayed movements.
Otherwise things were kept simple, with a blazing lighting rig and a Grace Jones lookalike backing singer the only adornments to a set which focused on the quality of the band’s enviable catalogue. Those early New Wave years were referenced with the deep, carnal rhythms of Love Song, Celebrate and The American, but the later years provided the most crowd-pleasing material in this context. Waterfront, Promised You a Miracle, Glittering Prize, Alive and Kicking and many others are those rarest of pop gems, songs redolent of their time yet utterly immediate when brought earnestly into the present.
Elsewhere, Dundee’s The View are a group who appear to be shuffling sideways into the classic rock market with their latest album Cheeky For a Reason, and the energetically-touring Dundonians demonstrated both halves of their muse here – on one hand the rowdy, setlist-eschewing punks of Same Jeans and Superstar Tradesman, on the other the writers of surprisingly sensitive new songs like The Clock.
Holding up the bill, NME-approved Edinburgh group Bwani Junction are raw but coalescing into something endearing, a preppy mix of the Vaccines and Vampire Weekend with no shortage of confidence or ability.