It becomes impossible, as the concert goes on, to separate an appraisal of Edwyn Collins’ performance from the sheer emotional weight of seeing him before us. Eight years ago, as has been well documented, the sometime singer of arch ‘80s Glasgow indie-pop group Orange Juice very nearly died following two brain haemorrhages and an infection picked up during his treatment.
Now the fact that what he’s been through is still apparent in his demeanour only adds to the joy. His speech and movements are hesitant, and he walks with a cane, but he performs with a smile on his face and his signature baritone is as rich and sonorous as ever.
Hosted by Edinburgh band Kid Canaveral, the fourth in their annual Christmas Baubles series of mini-festivals, this whole day was a celebration of independent music, and of the Scottish strain of it in particular.
Having self-released his eighth studio album on his own AED label earlier in the year, headliner Collins was in good company, as the day was a co-promotion between Kid Canaveral and their parent label Lost Map. The latter was newly-minted earlier this year following the breakdown of its boss Johnny Lynch (who records as Pictish Trail and played with his band here) and Kenny ‘King Creosote’ Anderson’s relationship at the helm of the Fife-based Fence Records.
So on its first visit to Edinburgh’s seaside enclave Portobello, Christmas Baubles employed many of the trappings of Fence’s seminal DIY festival Homegame: the unusual but eminently suitable village hall location; the seaside setting (albeit on the opposite bank of the Firth of Forth); the local baker selling pastries from a stall at the side of the hall. The line-up included Fence alumnus Rozi Plain, Orange Juice-indebted Leeds outfit This Many Boyfriends, and Kid Canaveral themselves, the latter with a fusion of poignancy, impudence and eager pop choruses which finds its best expression during the driving harmonies of And Another Thing.
There was also a reformation set from Bellshill’s sometime Chemikal Underground signees De Rosa, a group who brought wintry tension to match the grim weather outside, but who carried it off in a style which fused stark and very Scottish alternative sounds with a resonantly hollowed-out take on post-rock. Yet such delights were the burning brandy on the cake which was Collins’ appearance, with a sizeable chunk of the sold out, six hundred strong crowd seemingly only arriving for his late-evening set.
Backed by five youthful musicians, the 54-year-old perched on an amp to sing opening versions of Orange Juice’s Falling and Laughing and the sax-laden What Presence?!, before guiding us on a tour through the easy-crooned jangle of his mid-career solo years, from the ‘90s’ tender Make Me Feel Again to the recent 31 Years. “All of these are goodies, yes?” he enquired at one point. That the answer was yes with the feverishly received might of Rip It Up, A Girl Like You and Blue Boy still to come spoke all too highly of the quality of his catalogue.